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By THOMAS REID, D. D. F. R. S. E. 



fV/io hath put luifdom in the invjard parts P Job. 


Printed for I,. WHITE, No* 86, D a m s -S t r e i t. 


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Chap. i. X)/ conception, or Jimple apprehenjion in general, i 

I 2. Theories concerning conception, — 27 

3. Mijiakes concerning conception, — 47 

■11 4. Of the train of thought in the mind, 59 


Chap. i. Of general ivords, — — 19 

2. Of general conceptions, — — 97 

■i 3. Of general conceptions formed by analyfng ob- 

jeds, — — 106 

» 4. Of general conceptions formed By combination, 1x9 
— — 5. Obfer'vations concerning the names gifven to 

our general notions, — 137 

I 6. Opinion of Philofophers about univerfals, 143 


Chap. i. Of judgment in general, — 168 

■ - 2. Of common fenfe, — — 1 95 

I 3. Sentiment of Philofophers concermng judgment, 211 

4. Of firfi principles in general, — 23S 

5. Uhefjrji principles of contingent truths, 262 

6. Hr^ principles ofnecefjary truth, — 296 

• 7. Opinions ancient and modern abont firfl prin- 
ciples, — — 329 

8. Of prejudices, the caufes of err or , 351 


Chap. i. Of reafoning in general, andof demonflratlon, 373 

2. Whether m9rality be capable of demmjiration, 382 




Ckap. 3. Of probable reafoningy — 394 

... ■ 4. Of Mr. Hume's fcepticifm "joith regard to 

reafott, — — 404 


Chap. 1. Of taf^e in general, — — 421 

> 2. Of the objeds of tajle, and firji of novelty^ 430 

3- Pf gr^f'^^'ry — — 435 

— — 4. Of beauty, — — 448 


O N T H E 




Of Conception^ or ftmple Apprehefifion in 

CONCEIVING, imagining, apprehend-C H A P. 
ing, underftanding, having a notion of a 
thing, are common words ufed to exprefs that ' 
operation of the underftanding, which the Lo- 
gicians (:2l\\ ftmple apprehenfion. The having an 
idea of a thing, is in common language ufed 
in the fame fenfe, chiefly I think fmce Mr. 
Lo-cke's time. 

Logicians define fimple apprehenfion to be 
ttie bare conception of a thing without any 
judgment or belief about it. If this were in- 
tended for a ftridly logical definition, it might 
be a juft objection to it, that conception and 
Vol. II. B appre- 

2 E S S A y IV. 

CHAP, apprehenfion are only fynonymous words ; and 
^- . that we may as wdl define conception by ap- 
prehenfion^ as apprehenfion by conception ; 
but it oaght to be remembered, that the 
moll fimple operations of the mind cannot 
be logically defined. To have a diflinO: no- 
tion of them, we muft attend to them as we 
feel them in our own minds. He that would 
have a diilin^: notion of a fcarlet colour, will 
never attain it by a definition ; he muft fet it 
before his eye, attend to it, compare it with 
the colours that come nearefi: to it, and ob- 
ferve the fpecific difference, which he will in 
vain attempt to define. 

Every man is confcious that he can conceive 
a thoufand things, of which he believes nothing 
at all ; as a horfe with wings, a mountain of 
gold ; but although conception may be with- 
out any degree of belief, even the fmalleft be- 
lief cannot be without conception. He that 
believes, muft have fome conception of what 
he believes. 

Without attempting a definition of this ope- 
ration of the mind, I ihall endeavour to ex- 
plain fome of its properties ; confider the theo- 
ries about it ; and take notice of fome mif- 
takes of Philofophers concerning it. 

1. It may be obferved, that conception en- 
ters as an insjredient in every operation of the 
mind : Our fenfes cannot give us the belief of 
any object, without giving fome conception of 
it at the fame time : No man can either re- 
member or reafon about things of which he 
hath no conception : When we will to exert 
any of our adlive powers, there muft be fome 
conception of what we will to do : There can be 
no defire nor averfion, love nor hatred, with- 
. out fome conception of the objed : We cannot 


Of Simple Apprehension in General. 3 

feel pain without conceiving It, though we can CHAP, 
conceive it without feeling it. Thefe things 
are felf-evident. 

In every operation of the mind therefore, in 
every thing we call thought there muft be con- 
ception : When we analyfe the various ope- 
rations either of the underftanding or of the 
will, we fhall always find this at the bottom, 
like the caput mortuum of the Chemiils, or the 
materia prima of the Peripatetics ; but though 
there is no operation of mind without concep- 
tion, yet it may be found naked, detached 
from all others, and then it is called fimple 
apprehenfion, or the bare conception of a 

As all the operations of our mind are ex- 
prefled by language, every one knows, that it 
is one thing to underftand what is faid, to con- 
ceive or apprehend its meaning, whether it be 
a word, a fentence, or a difcourfe \ it is ano- 
ther thing to judge of it, to aflent or diffent, 
to be perfuaded or moved. The firfl is fimple 
apprehenfion, and may be without the laft, 
but the lalt cannot be without the firft. 

2. In bare conception there can neither be 
truth nor falfehood, becaufe it neither affirms 
nor denies. Every judgment, and every pro- 
pofition by which judgment is exprelTed, muft 
be true or falfe ; and the qualities of true and 
falfe, in their proper fenfe, can belong to no- 
thing but to judgments, or to propofitions 
which exprefs judgment. In the bare concep- 
tion of a thing there is no judgment, opinion, 
or belief included, and therefore it cannot be 
either true or falfe. 

But it may be faid. Is there any thing more 

certain than that men may have true or falfe 

B 2 conceptions, 

4 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP, conceptions, true or falfe apprehenfions, of 
^ things ? I anfwer, that fuch M^ays of fpeaking 
are indeed fo common, and fo well authorifed 
by cufiom, the arbiter of language, that it 
would be prcfumption to cenfure them. It is 
hardly poflible to avoid ufmg them. But we 
ought to be upon our guard that we be not 
milled by them, to confound things, which, 
though often expreifed by the fame words, are 
really ditferent. V\ c muft therefore remember 
what v/as before obferved, Effay I. chap. i. 
That all the words, by which we Signify the 
bare conception of a thing, are likewife ufed to 
fignify our opinions, when we wilh to exprefs 
them with modefty and diffidence. And we 
(hall always find, that, when we fpeak of true 
or falfe conceptions, we mean true or falfe 
opinions. An opinion, though ever fo waver- 
ing, or ever fo modeftly expreifed, muft be ei- 
ther true or falfe ; but a bare conception, 
which expreffcs no opinion or judgment,, can 
be neither. 

If we analyfe thofe fpeeches, in which men 
attribute truth or falfchood to our conceptions 
of things, we Ihail find in every cafe, that there 
is fome opinion or judgment implied in what 
they call conception. A child conceives the 
moon to be fiat, and a foot or two broad ; that 
is, this is his opinion : And when we fay it is 
a fal!'e notion, or a falfe conception, we mean 
that it is a falfe opinion. He conceives the 
city of London to be like his country village ; 
that is, he believes it to be fo, till he is better 
inftruifted. He conceives a lion to have horns ; 
that IS, he believes that the animal which men 
call a lion, has horns. Such opinions language 
authoriies us to call conceptions ; and they 


Of Simple Apprehension in General. 5 

may be true or falfe. But bare conception, C H A P. 
or what the Logicians call fimple apprehenfion, ^• 
implies no opinion, however flight, and there- 
fore can neither be true nor falfe. 

What Mr. Locke fays of ideas (by which 
word he very often means nothing but concep- 
tions) is very jufl, when the word idea is fo un- 
derftood, book 2. chap. 31. § i. " Though 
*' truth and falfehood, belong in propriety of 
" fpeech only to propofitions, yet ideas are 
" often termed true or falfe (as what words are 
" there that are not ufed with great latitude, 
'* and with fome deviation from their ftrict and 
" proper fignification) ; though I think, that 
" when ideas themfelves are termed true or 
** falfe, there is Hill fome fecret or tacit propo- 
" fition, which is the foundation of that deno- 
" mination ; as we fhall fee, if we examine 
" the particular occafions wherein they come 
" to be called true or falfe ; in all v.'hich we 
" fhall find fome kind of affirmation or nega- 
" tion, which is the reafon of that denomina- 
" tion : For our ideas being nothing but bare 
" appearances, or perceptions in our minds, 
" cannot properly and fimply in themfelves be 
" faid to be true or falfe, no more than a fim- 
*' pic name of any thing can be faid to be 
" true or falfe." 

It may be here obferved by the way, that in 
this paffage, as in many others, Mr. Locke 
ufes the word perception, as well as the word 
idea, to fignify what I call conception, or fim- 
ple apprehenfion. And in his chapter upon 
perception, book 2. chap. 9. he ufes it in the 
fame fenfc. Perception, he fays, " as it is the 
" firfl faculty of the mind, exercifed about 

" our 

6 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP." our Ideas ; fo it is the firft and fimpleft idea 
^- " we have from refleftion, and is by fome 

' "^ ' " called thinking in general. It feems to be 
" that which puts the diflinclion betwixt the 
" animal kingdom and the inferior parts of 
" nature. It is the firft operation of all our 
" faculties, and the inlet of all knowledge 
" into our minds." 

Mr. Locke has followed the example given 
by Des Cartes, Gassendi, and other Car- 
tcfians, in giving the name of perception to the 
bare conception of things : And he has been 
followed in this by Bifliop Berkeley, Mr. 
Hume, and many late Philofophers, when 
they treat of ideas. They have probably been 
led into this impropriety, by the common 
doctrine concerning ideas, which teaches us, 
that conception, perception by the fenfes, and 
memory, are only different ways of perceiving 
ideas in our own minds. If that theory be well 
founded, it will indeed be very difficult to find 
any fpecific diflinclion between conception and 
perception. But there is reafon to diftruft any 
philofophical theory, when it leads men to 
corrupt iangu;\ge, and to confound, under 
one name, operations of the mind, which 
common fenfe and common language teach 
them to diilinguiih. 

I grant that there are fome flates of the 
mind, wherein a man may confound his con- 
ceptions with what he perceives or remembers, 
and miftake the one for the other ; as, in the 
delirium of a fever, in fome cafes of lunacy 
and of madnefs, in dreaming, and perhaps in 
fome momentary tranfports of devotion, or of 
other ftrong emotions, which cloud his intel- 

X)f Simple AppreheInsion in General. 7 

Icdual faculties, and for a time carry a man^ HAP. 
out of himfelf, as we ufually exprefs it. ^^-^i^ 

Even in a fober and found fhate of mind, 
the memory of a thing may be fo very weak, 
that we may be in doubt whether v/e only 
dreamed or imagined it. 

It may be doubted, whether children, when 
their imagination firfl begins to work, can 
diftinguifh what they barely conceive from 
what they remember. I have been told by a 
man of knowledge and obfervation, that one 
of his fons, when he began to fpeak, very of- 
ten told lies with great affurance, without 
any intention, as far as appeared, or any con^ 
fcioufnefs of guilt. From which the father 
concluded, that it is natural to fome children 
to lie. I am rather inclined to think, that the 
child had no intention to deceive, but miftook 
the rovings of his own fancy, for things which 
he remembered. This, however, I take to be 
very uncommon, after children can commu- 
nicate their fentiments by language, though 
perhaps not fo in a more early period. 

Granting all this,, if any man will affirm, 
that they whofe intelledual faculties are found, 
and fober, and ripe, cannot with certainty 
diflinguifli what they perceive or remember, 
from what they barely conceive, when thofe 
operations have any degree of flrength and 
diftinftnefs, he may enjoy his opinion ; I 
know not how to reafon with him. Why 
fhould Philofophers confound thofe operations 
in treating of ideas, when they would be 
afhamed to do it on other occafions ? To dif- 
tinguifh the various powers of our minds^ a 
certain degree of underflanding is neceifary : 
And if fome, through a defe<ft of underfland- 

8 E S S A Y IV. 

C H A P-ing, natural or accidental, or from unrlpenefs 
^- of underftanding, may be apt to confound 
'""'^''^ difi'ercnt powers, will it follow that others 
cannot clearly diftinguifti them ? 

To return from this digreffion, into which 
the abufe of the word perception, by Philofo- 
phers, has led me, it appears evident, that 
the bare conception of an obje;£t, which in- 
cludes no opinion or judgment, cajfl neither 
be true nor falfe. Thofe qualities, in their 
proper fenfe, are altogether inapplicable to 
this operation of the mind. 

3. Of all the analogies between th^ operatir 
ons of body and thofe of the mind, the^e is 
none fo flrong and fo obvious to aU mankind 
as that which there is between painting, of 
other plaflic arts, and the power of conceiving 
objeds in the mind. Hence in all languages, 
the words, by which this power of the mind 
and its various modifications are expreffed, 
arc analogical, and borrowed from thofe arts., 
We confider this power of the mind as a plaf- 
tic power, by which we form to ourfelves ima- 
ges of the objefts cf thought. 

In vain fhould we attempt to avoid this ana- 
logical language, for we have no other lan- 
guage upon the fubjeft ; yet it is dangerous, 
and apt to miflead. All analogical and figu- 
rative words have a double meaning ; and, if 
we are not very much upon our guard, we 
Aide infenfibly from the borrowed and figura- 
tive meaning into the primitive. We are 
prone to carry the parallel between the things 
compared farther than it will hold, and thus 
v-ery naturally to fall into error. 

To avoid this as far as poffible in the prefent 
fubje<^, it is proper to attend to the dilfimili- 


Of Simple Apprehension in General. 9 

tude between conceiving a thing in the niind,^ HAP. 
and painting ir to the eye, as wvU as to their y^^,^^ 
fimilitude. The fimilitude Itrikes and gives 
pleafure. The diflimilitude we are lefs difpo- 
led to obferve. But the Philofopher ought to 
attend to it, and to carry it always in mind, 
in his reafonings on this fubjeft, as a moni* 
tor, to warn him againft the errors into which 
the analogical language is apt to draw him. 

When a man paints, there is fome work 
done, which remains when his hand is taken 
off, and continues to exift, though he ihould 
think no more of it. Every ftroke of his pen- 
cil produces an effect, and this effect is diffe- 
rent from his aQion in making it ; for it re-^ 
mains and continues to exift when the adion 
ceafes. The action of painting is one thing, 
the picture produced is another thing. The 
firft is the caufe, the fecond is the effedt. 

Let us next confider what is done when he 
only conceive? this picture. He muft have 
conceived it before he painted it : For this is 
a maxim univerfally admitted, that every 
work of art muft firft be conceived in the mind 
of the operator. What is this conception ? 
It is an aft of the mind, a kind of thought. 
This cannot be denied. But does it produce 
any effect befides the aft itfelf ? Surely com- 
mon fenfe anfwers this queftion in the negar 
live : For every one knows, that it is one 
thing to conceive, another thing to bring forth 
into effeft. It is one thing to projeft, another 
to execute. A man may think for a long time 
what he is to do, and after all do nothing. 
Conceiving as well as projefting or refolving, 
are what the fchoolmen called hiwianent afts of 
the mind, which produce nothing beyond 



CHAP, themfelves. But painting is a tranfitive a6b, 
_ which produces an effect diftin£t from the ope- 
ration, and this effefl: is the pifture. Let this 
therefore be always remembered, that what is 
commonly called the image of a thing in the 
mind, is no more than the act or operation of 
the mind in conceiving it. 

That this is the common fenfe of men who 
are untutored by philofophy, appears from 
their language. If one ignorant of the lan- 
guage fhould afl^. What is meant by conceiv- 
ing a thing ? we fhould very naturally anfwer. 
That it is having an image of it in the mind ; 
and perhaps we could not explain the word 
better. This fliows, that conception, and the 
image of a thing in the mind, are fynonymous 
expreffions. The image in the mind, there- 
fore, is not the objed of conception, nor is 
it any effeft produced by conception as a 
caufe. It is conception itfelf. That very mode 
of thinking, which we call conception, is by 
another name called an image in the mind. 

Nothing more readily gives the conception of 
a thing than the feeing an image of it. Hence, 
by a figure common in language, conception is 
called an image of the thino- conceived. But 
to fhow that it is not a real but a metaphorical 
image, it is called an image in the mind. We 
know nothing that is properly in the mind but 
thought ; and when any thing elfe is faid to be 
in the mind, the expreilion muft be figurative, 
and fignify fome kind of thought. 

I know that Philofophers very unanimoufly 
maintain, that in conception there is a real 
image in the mind, which is the immediate ob- 
ject of conception, and diflind: from the ad of* 
conceiving it. I beg the reader's indulgence 


0/" Simple Apprehension in General. ii 

to defer what may be faid for or againfl: this CHAP, 
philofophical opinion to the next chapter ; in- ^• 
tending in this only to explain what appears to 
me to belong to this operation of mind, w ith- 
out confidering the theories about it. I think 
it appears from what has been faid, that the 
common language of thofe who have not im- 
bibed any philofophical opinion upon this fub- 
jedl, authorifes us to underfiand the conception 
of a things and an image of it in the mind^ not 
as two different things, but as two different 
expreflions, to fignify one and the fame thing ; 
and I wifii to ufe common words in their com- 
mon acceptation. 

4. Taking along with us what is faid in the 
laft article, to guard us againfl the fedu£lion 
of the analogical language ufed on this fubje6t, 
we may obferve a very ftrong analogy, not 
only between conceiving and painting in ge- 
neral, but between the different kinds of our 
conceptions, and the different works of the 
painter. He either makes fancy pidures, or 
he copies from the painting of others, or he 
paints from the life ; that is, from real objeds 
of art or nature which he has feen. I think 
our conceptions admit of a divifion very fimi- 

Firft^ There are conceptions which may be 
called fancy pictures. They are commonly 
called creatures of fancy, or of imagination. 
They are not the copies of any original that 
exifts, but are originals themfelves. Such was 
the conception which Swift formed of the if- 
land of Laputa and of the country of the Lil- 
liputians ; Cervantes of Don Quixote and 
his Squire ; Harrington of the government 
of Oceana \ and Sir Thomas More of that 


12 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP, of Utopia. We can give names to fuch crea- 
tures of imagination, conceive them diftin£tly, 
^^^^ and reafon confequentially concerning them, 
though they never had an exiftence. They 
were conceived by their creators, and may be 
conceived by others, but they never exifted. 
We do not afcribe the qualities of true or falfe 
to them, becaufe they are not accompanied 
with any belief, nor do they imply any affir- 
mation or negation. 

Setting afide thofe creatures of imagination, 
there are other conceptions, which may be 
called copies, becaufe they have an original or 
archetype to which they refer, and with which 
they are believed to agree ; and we call them 
true or falfe conceptions, according as they 
/ agree or difagree with the ftandard to which 

they are referred. Thefe are of two kinds, 
which have different flandards or originals. 

The jirjl kind is analogous to pictures taken 
from the life. We have conceptions of indivi- 
dual things that really exift , fuch as the city of 
London, or the government of Venice. Here 
the things conceived are the originals ; and 
our conceptions are called true when they agree 
with the thing conceived. Thus, my con- 
ception of the city of London is true when I 
conceive it to be vvhat it really is. 

Individual things which really exift, being 
the creatures of God, (though fome of them 
may receive their outward form from man,) 
he only who made them knows their whole na- 
ture ; we know them but in part, and there- 
fore our conceptions of them mufl in all cafes 
be.imperfedl and inadequate ; yet they may be 
true, aad juft, as far as they reach. 


Of Simple Apprkhension in General. 13 

The fecond kind is analogous to the copiesC HAP. 
which the painter makes from pidures done ^• 
before. Such I think are the conceptions vve^" 
have of ^^hac the ancients called univtrfals ; 
that is, of things which belong or may belong 
to many individuals. Thefe are kinds and fpe- 
ctes of things ; fuch as, man or elephant, 
which are fpecies of fubflances ; wifdom or 
courage, which are fpecies of qualities ; equali- 
ty or fimilitudc, which are fpecies of relations. 
It may be aflced. From what original are thefe 
conceptions formed ^. And when are they faid 
to be true or falfe ? 

It appears to me, that the original from 
which they are copied, that is, the thing con- 
ceived, is the conception or meaning which 
other men w^ho underfland the language affix 
to the fame words. 

Things are parcelled into kinds and forts, 
not by nature, but by men. The individual 
things we are conneded with, are fo many, 
that to give a proper name to every individual 
would be impolTible. We could never attain 
the knowledge of them that is neceifary, nor 
converfe nor reafon about them, without fort- 
mg them according to their different attributes. 
Thofe that agree in certain attributes are thrown 
into one parcel, and have a general name given 
them, which belongs equally to every indivi- 
dual in that parcel. This common name mull 
therefore fignify thofe attributes which have 
been obferved to be common to every individual 
in that parcel, and nothing elfe. 

That fuch general words may anfwer their 
intention, all that is neceffary is, that thofe 
who ufe them fhould affix the fame meaning: or 
notion, that rs, the lame conception to them. 




C H A P.The common meaning is the ftandard by which 
I- fuch conceptions are formed, and they are faid 
^^'^^^^ to be true or falfe, according as they agree or 
difagree with it. Thus, my conception of fe- 
lony is true and juft, when it agrees with the 
meaning of that word in the laws relating to 
it, and in authors who underfland the law. 
The meaning of the word is the thing conceiv- 
ed ; and that meaning is the conception affixed 
to it by thofe who bed underfland the language. 
An individual is expreffed in language either 
by a proper name, or by a general word joined 
to fach circumftances as diilinguifh that indi- 
vidual from all others; if it is unknown, it 
may, when an object of fenfe and within reach, 
be pointed out to the fenfes; when beyond the 
reach of the fenfes, it may be afcertained by a 
defcription, which, though very imperfect, 
may be true and fufficient to diftinguifli it from 
every other individual. Hence it is, that, 
in fpeaking of individuals, we are very little 
in danger of miflaking the objed, or taking 
one individual for another. 

Yet, as was before obferved, our conception 
of them is alv/ays inadequate and lame. They 
are the creatures of God, and there are many 
things belonging to them v/hich we know not, 
and which cannot be deduced by reafoning from 
what we know: Ihey have a real eflence, or 
conflltution of nature, from which all their 
qualities flow ; but this effence our faculties 
do not com.prehcnd : They are therefore inca- 
pable of definition; for a definition ought to 
comprehend the whole nature or eifence of 
the thing defined. 

Thus, Weflminfter bridge is an individual 
objed ; though I had never feen or heard of it 


0/" Simple Apprehension in General. 15 

before, if I am only made to conceive that itC H A P. 
is a bridge from Weflminfter over the Thames, 
this conception, however imperfeft, is true, 
and is fufficient to niLike me diftinguifh it, when 
it is mentioned, from every other obje£t that 
exifts. Ihe archite<5t may have an adequate 
conception of its ftruiflure, which is the work 
of man; but of the materials which are the 
work of God, no man has an adequate con- 
ception; and therefore, though the objed may 
be defcribed, it cannot be defined. 

Univerfals are always exprefTed by general 
words; and all the words of language, ex- 
cepting proper names, are general words ; they 
are the figns of general conceptions, or of fome 
circumftance relating to them. Thefe general 
conceptions are formed for the purpofe of lan- 
guage and reafoning; and the objecl from 
which they are taken, and to which they are 
intended to agree, is the conception which 
other men join to the fame words; they may 
therefore be adequate, and perfectly agree with 
the thing conceived. This implies no more 
than that men who fpeak the fame language 
may perfectly agree in the meaning of many 
general words. 

Thus Mathematicians have conceived what 
they call a plane triangle: They have defined 
it accurately; and when 1 conceive it to be a 
plane furface, bounded by three right hues, 
I have both a true and an adequate conception 
of it. There is nothing belonging to a plane 
triangle which is not comprehended in this con- 
ception of it, or deducible from it by juft rea- 
foning. This definition expreffes the whole 
cflence of the thing defined, as every jufl de- 
finition ought to do; but this effence is only 
what Mr. Locke very properly calls a nominal 

effence ; 

i6 E S S A Y IV. 

CH A P. effence; it is a general conception formed by 
the mind, and joined to a general word as its 

If all the general words of a language had 
a precife meaning, and were perfectly under- 
ftood, as mathematical terms are, all verbal 
difputes would be at an end, and men would 
never feem to differ in opinion, but when they 
differ in reality ; but this is far from being the 
cafe. The meaning of mofl general words is 
not learned like that of mathematical terms, 
by an accurate definition, but by the experience 
we happen to have, by hearing them ufed in 
converfation. From fuch experience we col- 
lect their meaning by a kind of induction; and 
as this indu£lion is for the mofl part lame and 
imperfect, it happens that different perfons join 
different conceptions to the fame general word; 
and though we intend to give them the mean- 
ing which ufe, the arbiter of language, has 
put upon them, this is difficult to find, and 
apt to be miftaken, even by the candid and at- 
tentive. Hence, in innumerable difputes, men 
do not really differ in their judgments, but in 
the way of expreffmg them. 

Our conceptions, therefore, appear to be of 
three kinds : They are either the conceptions 
of individual things, the creatures of God; 
or they are conceptions of the meaning of ge- 
neral words; or they are the creatures of our 
own imagination; and thefe different kinds 
have different properties which we have endea- 
voured to defcribe. 

5. Our conception of things may be flrong 
and lively, or it may be faint and languid in 
all degrees. Thefe are qualities which proper- 
ly belong to our conceptions, though we have 


Of Simple Apprehension in General. 17 

no names for them but fuch as are analoErical.^ HAP. 
Every man is confcious of fach a difference in '• 
his conceptions, and finds his Hvely conceptions' n^— ** 
moft agreeable, when the objed is not of fuch 
a nature as to give pain. 

Thofe who have lively conceptions, common- 
ly cxprefs them in a lively manner, that is, in 
fuch a manner as to raife lively conceptions and . 
emotions in others. Such perfons are the moft 
agreeable companions in converfation, and the 
moft acceptable in their writings. 

The livelinefs of our conceptions proceeds 
from different caufes. Some objeds from their 
own nature, or from accidental affbciationj?, 
are apt to raife ftrong emotions in the mind. 
Joy and hope, ambition, zeal, and refentment, 
tend to enliven our conceptions: Difappoint- 
ment, difgrace, grief, and envy, tend rather 
to flatten them. Men of keen paflions are 
commonly lively and agreeable in converfation ; 
and difpallionate men often make dull compa- 
nions : There is in fome men a natural ftrcngth 
and vigour of mind, which gives ftrength to 
their conceptions on all fubjefts, and in all the 
occafional variations of temper. 

It feems eafier to form a lively conception of 
objects that are familiar, than of thofe that 
are not; our conceptions of vifible objedls are 
commonly the moft lively, when other circum- 
ftances are equal : Hence Poets not only delight 
in the defcription of vifible objects, but find 
means by metaphor, analogy, and allufion, to 
clothe every object they defcribe with vifible 
qualities: The lively conception of thefe makes 
the object appear, as it were, before our eyes. 
Lord Kaimes, in his Elements cf Critjcifm, 
has fhewn of what importance it is in works ^ 

Vol. II. C of 

j8 E S S a Y IV. 

C H A P. of tafte, to give to objects defcribed, what he 
^ calls ideal prefence. To produce this in the 
^^ — "^ ' mind, is indeed the capital aim of poetical 
and rhetorical defcription. It carries the man, 
as it were, out of himfelf, and makes him a 
fpectator of the fcene defcribed. This ideal 
prefence feems to me to be nothing elfe but 
a lively conception of the appearance which 
the object would make if really prefent to the 

Abflracl and general conceptions are never 
lively, though they may be diflincl; and there- 
fore, however neceflary in philofophy, feldom 
enter into poetical defcription, without being 
particularifed or clothed in fome vifible drefs. 

It may be obferved, however, that our con- 
ceptions of vifible objedls become more lively 
by giving them motion, and more flill by giv- 
ing them life, and intelledtual qualities. Hence 
in poetry, the whole creation is animated, and 
endowed with fenfe and reflection. 

Imagination^ when it is diftinguifhed from 
conception, feems to me to fignify one fpecies 
of conception ; to wit, the conception of vi- 
fible objects. Thus, in a mathematical pro- 
portion, I imagine the figure, and I conceive 
the demonftration; it would not I think be 
improper to fay, I conceive both; but it would 
not be fo proper to fay, I imagine the demon- 

6. Our conceptions of things may be clear, 
diftind, andfteady; or they may be obfcure, 
indiftinct, and wavering. The livelinefs of our 
conceptions gives pleafure, but it is their dif- 
tinctnefs and ileadinefs that enables us to judge 
right, and to exprefs our fcntiments with per- 


0/* Simple Apprehension in General, 19 

If we enquire into the caufe, why among CHAP, 
perfons fpeaking or writing on the fame fubjed:, ' 
we find in one fo much darknefs, in another ^-^"^""^ 
fo much perfpicuity; I believe the chief caufe 
will be found to be, that one had a diftinft and 
fteady conception of what he faid or wrote, 
and the other had not: Men generally find 
means to exprefs diftin£lly what they have con- 
ceived diflinclly. Horace obferves, that pro- 
per words fpontaneoully follow diftincl concep- 
tions., " Verbaqye provifam rem non invitafe- 
" quuntur.^' But it is impofiible that a man 
fhould diftindly exprefs what he has notdiflind- 
ly conceived. 

We are commonly taught that perfpicuity 
depends upon a proper choice of words,, a pro- 
per ftructure of fentences, and a proper order 
in the whole compofition. All this is very true, 
but it fuppofes difllndlnefs in our conceptions, 
without which there can be neither propriety 
in our words, nor in the ftrudure of our fen- 
tences, nor in our method. 

Nay, I apprehend, that indiftinft concepti- 
ons of things are, for the moft part, the caufe 
not only of obfcurity in writing and fpeaking, 
but of error in judging. 

Muft not they who conceive things in the 
fame manner form the fame judgment of their 
agreements and difagreements ? Is it pofiible 
for two perfons to differ with regard to the 
conclufion of a fyllogifm who have the fame 
conception of the premifes? 

Some perfons find it difficult to enter into a 
mathematical demonftration. I believe we fhall 
always find the reafon to be, that they do not 
diftindly apprehend it. A man cannot be con- 
vinced by what he does not underftand. On 
C 2 the 


CH A P.thc other hand, 1 think a man cannot under- 
ftand a demonftration without feeing the force 
of it. I fpeak of fuch demonftrations as thofe 
of Euclid, where every flep is fet down, and 
nothing left to be fupplied by the reader. 

Sometimes one who has got through the 
firrt four books of Euclid's Elements, and 
fees the force of the demonftrations, finds 
difficulty in the fifth. What is the reafon of 
this? You may find, by a little converfation 
with him, that he has not a clear and ileady 
conception of ratios and of the terms relating 
to them. When the terms ufed in the fifth 
book have become familiar, and readily excite 
in his mind a clear and Ready cor^ception of 
their meaning, you may venture to affirm that 
he will be able to underftand the demonftra- 
tions of that book, and to fee the force of 

If this be really the cafe, as it feems to be, 
it leads us to think that men are very much 
upon a level with regard to mere judgment, 
when we take that facult)^ apart from the ap- 
prehenfion or conception ot the things about 
which we judge ; fo that a found judgment 
feeras to be the infeparable companion of a 
clear an^i fteady apprehenfion : And we ought 
not to cenfider thefe two as talents, of which 
the one may fall to the lot of one man, and 
the other to the lot of another, but as talents 
which always go together. 

It may, however, be obferved, that fome of 
our conceptions may be more fubfervient to 
reafoning than others which are equally clear 
and diitind: It was before obferved, that 
fome of our conceptions are of individual 
things, others of thing-s general and abftrad. 


Q/" Simple Apprehension in General. 21 

It may happen, that a man who has very clear C^H A P. 
conceptions of things individual, is not io hap- 
py in thofe of things general and abftrad. 
And this I take to be the reafon why we find 
men who have good judgment in matters of 
commoil life, and perhaps good talents for po- 
etical or rhetorical compofition, who find it 
very difficult to enter into abftraft reafoning. 

That I may not appear fmgular in putting 
men fo much upon a level in point of mere 
judgment, 1 beg leave to fupport this opinion 
by the authority of two very thinking men, 
Des CARThS and Cicero. The former, in 
his diflertation on method, exprefles himfelf 
to this purpofe : " Nothing is fo equally dif- 
tributed among men as judgment. Where- 
fore it feems reafonable to believe, that the 
power of diftinguifhing what is true from what 
is falfe, (which we properly call judgment or 
right reafon), is by nature equal in all men; 
and therefore that the diverfity of our opinions 
does not arife from one perfon being endowed 
with a greater power of reafon than another, 
but only from this, that we do not lead our 
thoughts in the fame track, nor attend to the 
fame things." 

Cicero, in his third book De Oratore, 
makes this obfervation, *' It is wonderful, 
when the learned and unlearned differ fo much 
in art, how little they dilFerin judgment. For 
art being derived from Nature, is good for 
nothing, unlefs it move and delight Nature.*' 

From what has been faid in this article, it 
follows, that it is fo far in our power to write 
and fpeak perfpicuoufly, and to reafon juftly, 
as it is in our power to form clear and diftintl 
conceptions of the fubjed on which we fpeak 


22 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP. or reafcn. And though Nature hath put a 

^- wide difference between one man and another 

^•^'^^''^^ in this refpedt, yet that it is in a very confider- 

able degree in our power to have clear and 

diftinft apprehenljons of things about which 

we think and reafon, cannot be doubted. 

7. It has been obferved by many authors, 
that, when we barely conceive any obje£t, the 
ingredients of that conception mud either be 
things with which we were before acquainted 
by fome other original power of the mind, or 
they mufl be parts or attributes of fuch things. 
Thus a man cannot conceive colours, if he ne- 
ver faw, nor founds, if he never heard. If 
man had not a ccnfcience, he could not con- 
ceive what is meant by moral obligation, or 
by right and wrong in conduct. 

Fancy may combine things that never were 
combined in reality. It may enlarge or dimi- 
nifh, multiply or divide, compound and fafhion 
the objects which Nature prefents ; but it can- 
not, bv the utmoll effort of that creative Pow- 
er which we afcribc to it, bring any one fimple 
ingredient into its produftions, which Nature 
has not framed, and brought to our know- 
ledge by fome other faculty. 

This Mr. Locke has expreffed as beautifully 
as juftly. The dominion of man, in this little 
world of his own underftanding, is much the 
fame as in the great world of vifible things ; 
wherein his power, hov/ever managed by art 
and Ikill, reaches no farther than to compound 
and divide the m.aterials that are made to his 
hand, but can do nothing towards making the 
lead particle of matter, or deftroying one atom 
that is already in being. The fame inabihty 
will every one find in himfelf, to fafhion in 


Of Simple Apprehension in General. 23 

his underftanding any fimple idea not received C HAP. 
by the powers which God has given him. ^• 

I think all Philofophers agree in this fenti- 
ment. Mr. Hume, indeed, after acknow- 
ledging the truth of the principle in general, 
mentions what he thinks a iingle exception to 
it. That a man, who had feen all the fnades 
of a particular colour except one, might frame 
in his mind a conception of that fliade which 
he never faw. I think this is not an excepti- 
on ; becaufe a particular ihade of a colour dif- 
fers not fpecifically, but only in degree, from 
other fhades of the fame colour. 

It is proper to obferve, that our moft fimple 
conceptions are not thofe which Nature imme- 
diately prefents to us. When we come to 
years of underftanding, we have the power of 
analyfing the objects of Nature, of dillinguifii- 
ing their feveral attributes and relations, of 
conceiving them one by one, and of giving 
a name to each, whofe meaning extends only 
to that fingle attribute or relation : And thus 
our moft fimple conceptions are not thofe of 
any object in nature, but of fome fingle attri- 
bute or relation of fuch objects. 

Thus nature prefents to our fenfes, bodies 
that are extended in three dimenfions, and fo- 
lid. By analyfing the notion we have of body 
from our fenfes, we form to ourfelves the con- 
ceptions of extenfion, folidity, fpace, a point, 
a line, a furface ; all which are more limple 
conceptions than that of a body. But they 
are the elements, as it were, of which our 
conception of a body is made up, and into 
which it may be analyfed. This power of 
analyfing objeds we propofe to confider parti- 
cularly in another place. It is only mentioned 



CHAP, here, that what is faid in this article may not 
be underitood, fo as to be inconfiftent with it. 
8. Though our conceptions muft be confi- 
ned to the ingredients mentioned in the laft 
article, we are unconfined with regard to the 
arrangement of thofe ingredients. Here we 
may pick and chufe, and form an endlefs vg,- 
riety of combinations and conipofitions, which 
we call creatures of the imagination. Thefe 
may be clearly conceived, though they never 
exiiled : And indeed every thing that is made, 
mufl have been conceived before it was made. 
Every work ot human art, and every plan of 
conduct, whether in public or in private Hfe, 
muft have been conceived before it is brought 
to execution. And we cannot avoid. thinking, 
that the Almighty before he created the uni- 
verfe by his pov^'er, had a diflinci conception 
of the whole and of every part, and faw it to 
be good, and agreeable to his intention. 

It is the bufmefs of man, as a rational crea- 
ture, to employ this unlimited power of con- 
ception, for planning his condud and enlarg- 
ing his knowledge. It feems to be peculiar to 
beings endowed with reafon to act by a pre- 
conceived plan. Brute animals ieem either to 
want this power, or to have it in a very low 
degree. They are moved by inftinct, habit, 
appetite, or natural aiieclion, according as 
thefe principles are ftirred by the prefent 
occafion. But I fee no reafon to think that 
they can propofe to themfelves a connected 
plan of life, or form general rules of conduct. 
Indeed, we fee that many of the human fpe- 
cies, to whom God has given this power, 
make little ufe of it. Ihey ad without a plan, 


Of Simple ArPREiiENSioN in General. 55 

as the paffion or appetite which is (Irongefl atC H A P. 
the time leads them. ^■ 

9. The lafl: property I ihall mention of this ^^ 
faculty, is that which efl'entially diitingui{he:j 
it from every other power of the mind ; and 
it is, that it is not employed folely about things 
which have exiflence. I can conceive a wing^ 
ed horfe or a centaur, as eafily and as diflindl:- 
ly as I can conceive a man whom I have feen. 
Nor does this diftincl conception incline my 
judgment in the leafl to the belief, that a wing-* 
ed horfe or a centaur ever exifted. 

It is not fo with the other operations of our 
minds. They are employed about real exig- 
ences, and carry with them the belief of their 
objecls. When I feel pain, T am compelled to 
believe that the pain that I feel has a real exifl- 
ence. When I perceive any external objed:, 
my behef of the real exiflence of the objecl is 
irrefiftible. When I diftindly remember any 
event, though that event may not now 
exifl, I can have no doubt but it did exilt. 
That confcioulnefs which we have of the ope- 
rations of our own minds implies a belief of 
the real exiflence of thofe operations. 

Thus we fee, that the powers of fenfation, 
of perception, of memory, and of confciouf- 
nefs, are all employed folely about objects that 
do exift, or have exifled. But conception is 
often employed about objects that neither do., 
nor did, nor will exift. This is the very na- 
ture of this faculty, that its objecl, though 
diflinftly conceived, may have no exiflence. 
Such an objeft we call a creature of imagina- 
tion ; but this creature never was created. 

That w^e may not impofe upon ourfelves in 
this matter, we mufl diflinguifh between that 


CH A P.aft or operation of the mind, which we call 
conceiving an objed:, and the obje£l which we 

^'"^^^^ conceive. When we conceive any thing, there 
is a real act or operation of the mind ; of this 
we are confcious, and can have no doubt of 
its exiftence : But every fuch ad mud have an 
objed ; for he that conceives, mufl conceive 
fomething. Suppofe he conceives a centaur, 
he may have a diftind conception of this ob- 
jed, though no centaur ever exifted.- 

I am afraid, that, to thofe who are unac- 
quainted with the dodrine of Philofophers upon 
this fubjed, I fliall appear in a very ridiculous 
light, for infilling upon a point fo very evident, 
<is that men may barely conceive things that 
never exifled. They will hardly beheve, that 
any man in his wits ever doubted of it. In- 
deed, I know no truth more evident to the 
common fenfe and to the 'experience of man- 
kind. But if the authority of philofophy, an- 
cient and modern, oppofes it, as I think it 
does, I wiih not to treat that authority fo fafti- 
dioufly, as not to attend patiently to what may 
be faid in fupport of it. 




Theories conceryiing Conception, 

THE theory of ideas has been applied to 
the conception of objeds as well as to 
perception and memory. Perhaps it will be 
irkfome to the reader, as it is to the writer, 
to return to that fubjedl, after fo much has 
been faid upon it ; but -Jts application to the 
conception of objefts, which could not proper- 
ly have been introduced before, gives a more 
comprehenfive view of it, and of the preju- 
dices which have led Philofophers fo unani- 
moufly into it. 

There are two prejudices which feem to me 
to have given rife to the theory of ideas in all 
the various forms in which it has appeared in 
the courfe of above two thoufand years ; and 
though they have no fupport from the natural 
diftates of our faculties, or from attentive re- 
flection upon their operations, they are preju- 
dices which thofe who fpeculate upon this fub- 
jecl, are very apt to be led into by analogy. 

Thtjirji is. That in all the operations of the 
underftanding there muft be fome immediate 
intercourfe between the mind and its object, 
fo that the one may a6t upon the other. The 
fecond. That in all the operations of under- 
ftanding there muft be an obje£t of thought, 
which really exifts while we think of it ; or, 
as fome Philofophers have expreffed it, that 
which is not, cannot be intelligible. 

Had Philofophers perceived, that thefe are 
prejudices grounded only upon analogical 


28 E S S A T IV. 

CH A P.reafoning, we had never heard of ideas in the 
^^' philofophical fenfe of that word. 

The firil of thefe principles has led Philofo- 
phers to think, that as the external objects of 
fenfe are too remote to ad: upon the mind im- 
mediately, there mud be fome image or fliadow 
of them that is prcfent to the mind, and is the 
immediate objed of perception. That there 
is fuch an immediate object of perception, dif- 
tindl from the external objed, has been very 
unanimoully held by Philofophers, though they 
have differed much about the name, the nature, 
and the origin of thofe immediate objects. 

We have confidered what has been faid in 
tliefupport of this principle, Eifay II. chap. 14. 
to which the reader is referred, to pre- 
vent repetition. 

I fhall only add to what is there faid. That 
there appears no fliadow of reafon why the 
mind mud have an objeQ: immediately prefent 
to it in. its intellectual operations, any more 
' than in its affections and palFions. Philofo- 
phers have not faid, that ideas are the immedi- 
ate objects of love or refentment, of efteem or 
difapprobation. It is, I think, acknowledged, 
that perfons and not ideas are the immediate 
objects of thofe affections ; perfons, who are 
as far from being immediately prefent to the 
mind as other external objects, and fometimes 
perfons who have now no exiflence in this 
world at leaft, and who can neither ad upon 
the mind, nor be aded upon by it. 

The fecond principle, v/hich I conceive to 
be likewife a prejudice of Philofophers ground- 
ed upon analogy, is now to be confidered. 

It contradids diredly what was laid down in 
the lad article of the preceding chapter, to wit, 



that we may have a diftind conception of C H A P, 
things which never exifted. This is undoubt- ^^• 
edly the common belief of thofe who have not ^'""^ 
been intruded in philofophy ; and they will 
think it as ridiculous to defend it by reafoning, 
as to oppofe it. 

The Philofopher fays, Though there may 
be a remote objed which does not exilt, there 
mud be an immediate objecl which really ex- 
iils ; for that v/hich is not, cannot be an object 
of thought. The idea mufl be perceived by 
the mind, and if it does not exifl there, there 
can be no perception of it, no operation of the 
mind about it. 

This principle deferves the more to be exa- 
mined, becaufe the other before mentioned de- 
pends upon it ; for although the laft may be 
true, even if the firft was falfe, yet if the lafl 
be not true, neither can the firft : If we can 
conceive objeds which have no exiftence, it 
follows, that there may be objects of thought 
which neither act upon the mind, nor are acted 
upon by it ; becaufe that which has no exift- 
ence can neither act nor be acled upon. 

It is by thefe principles that Philofophers 
have been led to think, that in every a<3: of 
memory and of conception, as well as of per- 
ception, there are two objects. The one, the 
immediate objett, the idea, the fpecies, the 
form : The other, the mediate or external ob- 
jed. The vulgar know only of one objed, 
which in perception is fomething external that 
exifts ; in memory, fomething that; did exift, 
and in conception, may be fomething that 
never exifted : But the immediate obje£t of 
the Philofophers, the idea, is faid to exift, 
and to be perceived in all thefe operations, 



CHAP. Thefe principles have not only led Philofo- 
^^^ phers to iplit objeds into two^ where others 
^ can find but one^ but likewife have led them 
to reduce the three operations now mentioned 
to one, making memory and conception, as 
well as perception, to be the perception of 
ideas. But nothing appears more evident to 
the vulgar, than that, what is only remember- 
ed, or only conceived, is not perceived ; and 
to fpeak of the perceptions of memory, ap- 
pears to them as abfurd, as to fpeak of the 
hearing of fight. 

In a word, thefe tv\'o principles carry us into 
the whole philofophical theory of ideas, and 
furnifh every argument that ever was ufed for 
their exiilence. If they are true, that fyftem 
mud be admitted v/ith all its confequences: If 
they are only prejudices, grounded upon ana- 
logical reafoning, the Vvhoie fyflem mud fall to 
the ground with them. 

It is, therefore, of importance to trace thofe 
principles, as far as we are able, to their origin, 
and to fee, if poffible, whether they have any 
juft foundation in reafon, or whether they are 
rafh conclufions, drawn from a fuppofed ana- 
logy between matter and mind. 

The unlearned, who are guided by the dic- 
tates of Nature, and exprefs what they are 
confcious of concerning the operations of their 
own mind, believe, that the objetl which they 
diftinftly perceive certainly exifts ; that the ob- 
ject which they difliniSlly remember certainly 
did exift, but now may not; but as to things 
that are barely conceived, they know that they 
can conceive a thoufand things that never ex- 
ifted, and that the bare conception of a thing 
does not fo much as afford a prefumption of its 



exiflence. They give themfelves no trouble toC H A P. 
know how thefe operations are performed, or 
to account for them from general principles. 

But Philofophers, who wifh to difcover the 
caufes of things, and to account for thefe ope- 
rations of mind, obferving, that in other ope- 
rations there mud be not only an agent, but 
fomething to a61 upon, have been led by ana- 
logy to conclude that it mult be fo in the ope- 
rations of the mind. 

' The relation between the mind and its con- 
ceptions bears a very flrong and obvious ana- 
logy to the relation between a man and his 
work. Every fcheme he forms, every difco- 
very he makes by his reafoning powers, is ve- 
ry properly called the work of his mind. Thefe 
works of the mind are fometimes great and im- 
portant works, and draw the attention and ad- 
miration of men. 

It is the province of the Philofopher to con- 
fider how fuch works of the mind are produc- 
ed, and of what materials they are compofed. 
He calls the materials ideas. There muft there- 
fore be ideas, which the mind can arrange 
and form into a regular ftrudure. Every 
thing that is produced, muft be produced of 
fomething; and from nothing, nothing can be 

Some fuch reafoning as this feems to me to 
have given the firft rife to the philofophical no- 
tions of ideas. Thofe notions were formed 
into a fyftem by the Pythagoreans two thou- 
fand years ago; and this fyftem was adopted 
by Plato, and embelliftied with all the powers 
of a fine and lofty imagination. I fhall, in 
compliance with cuftom, call it the Platonic 



CHAP. fyilem of ideas, though in reality it was the 
^^- inventioti of the Pythagorean fchool. 

The mofl: arduous queftion which employed 
the wits of men in the infancy of the Grecian 
philofophy was, A¥hat was the origin of thfc 
world ? From what principles and caufes did it 
proceed? To this queuion very different anfwers 
were given in the different fchools. Moft of 
them appear to us very ridiculous. The Py- 
thagoreans, however, judged very rationally, 
from the order and beailty of the univerfe, 
that it mud be the workmanfiiip of an eternal, 
intelligent and good Being : And therefore they 
concluded the Deity to be one firft principle or 
caufe of the univerfe. 

But they conceived there muft be more. 
The univcrTe muft be made of fomethincr. 
Every muft have materials to -work 
upon. That the world ftiould be made out of 
nothing feem.ed to them abfurd, becaufe every 
thing that is made muft be made of fomething. 

Nullam rem e nihihgigni divinitus unquam. 

De nibilo nihil^ in nihilum nil poffe rererti. 


This maxim never was brought into doubt: 
Even in Cicero's time it continued to be held 
hy all Philofophers. What natural Philofopher 
(fays that author in his fecond book of Divi- 
nation) ever afferted that any thing could take 
its rife from nothing, or be reduced to nothing? 
Becaufe m.en muft have materials to work upon, 
they concluded it m.uft be fo with the Deity. 
This was reafoning from analogy. 

From this it followed, that an eternal un- 


created matter was another firft principle of the CHAP, 
univerfe. But this matter they beheved had ^^• 
no form nor quality. It was the fame with the 
materia prima ^ or firfl matter of Aristotle, 
who borrowed this part of his philofophy from 
his predecefTors. 

To us it feems more rational to think that 
the Deity created matter with its qualities, 
than that the matter of the univerfe fhould be 
eternal and felf-exiftent. But fo ftrong was the 
prejudice of the ancient Philofophers againfl 
what we call creation, that they rather chofe to 
have recourfe to this eternal and unintelligible 
matter, that the Deity might have materials to 
work upon. 

The fame analogy which led them to think 
that there mull be an eternal matter of which 
the world was made, led them alfo to conclude 
that there muil be an eternal pattern or model 
according to which it was made. Works of de- 
fign and art muft be diftinftly conceived before 
they are made. The Deity, as an intelligent 
Being, about to execute a work of perfett 
beauty and regularity, mull have had a diftind: 
conception of his work before it was made. 
This appears very rational. 

But this conception, being the work of the 
Divine intelled, fomething muft have exilLed 
as its objed. This could only be ideas, which 
are the proper and immediate objed of intelled. 

From this inveftigation of the principles or 
caufes of the univerfe, thofe Philofophers con- 
cluded them to be three in number, to wit, an 
eternal matter as the material caufe, eternal 
ideas as the model or exemplary caufe, and an 
eternal intelligent mind as the efficient caufe.. 

Vol. II. D As 

34 E S S A Y IV. 

P. As to the nature of thofe eternal ideas, the 
Philofophers of that fed: afcribed to them the 
moft magnificent attributes. They were im- 
mutable and uncreated; the objeft of the Di- 
vine intelled before the world was made; and 
the only objed of intellcd: and of fcience to 
all intelligent beings. As far as intelled is fu- 
perior to lenfe, fo far are ideas fupcrior to all 
the objefts of fenfe. The obje6:s of fenfe be- 
ing in a conftant flux, cannot properly be faid 
to exifl. Ideas are the things which have a 
real and permanent exiftence. They are as 
various as the fpecies of things, there being 
one idea of every fpecies, but none of indivi- 
duals. The idea is the effence pf the fpecies, 
and exifted before any of the fpecies was made. 
It is entire in every individual of the fpecies, 
without being either divided or multiplied. 

In our prefent ftate, we have but an imper- 
fect conception of the eternal ideas; but it is 
the higheft felicity and perfection of men to be 
able to contemplate them. While we are in 
this prifon of the body, fenfe, as a dead 
weight, bears us down from the contemplation 
of the intelledual objedts; and it is only by a 
due purification of the foul, and abftraction 
from fenfe, that the intellectual eye is opened, 
and that we are enabled to mount upon the 
wings of intellect to the celeltial world of 

Such was the mod ancient fyftem concern- 
ing ideas, of which we have any account* 
And however different from the modern, it 
appears to be built upon the prejudices we have 
mentioned; to wit, that in every operation, 
there muft be fcmething to work upon ; and 


THEORIES concerning CONCEPTION. ;^s 

that even in conception there muft be an objeftC HAP. 
which really exifts. ^^• 

For if thofe ancient Philofophers had thought ' ~' 
it poffible that the Deity could operate without 
materials in the formation of the world, and 
that he could conceive the plan of it without 
a model, they could have feen no reafon to 
make matter and ideas eternal and neceffarily 
cxiflent principles, as well as the Deity himfelf. 
Whether they believed that the ideas were 
not only eternal, but eternally, and without a 
caufe, arranged in that beautiful and perfedt 
order, which they afcribe to this intelligible 
world of ideas, I cannot fay ; but this feems 
to be a neceflary confequence of the fyflem : 
For if the Deity could not conceive the plan 
of the world which he made, without a model 
which really exifted, that model could not be 
his work, nor contrived by his wifdom ; for if 
he made it, he muft have conceived it before 
it was made ; it muft therefore have exifted 
in all its beauty and order independent of the 
Deity ; and this I think they acknowledged, 
by making the model, and the matter of this 
world, firft principles, no lefs than the Deity. 
If the Platonic fyftem be thus underftood, 
(and I do not fee how it can hang together 
otherwife), it leads to two confequences that 
are unfavourable to it. 

Firjl, Nothing is left to the Maker of this 
world but the fkill to work after a model. The 
model had all the perfection and beauty that 
appears in the copy, and the Deity had only 
to copy after a pattern that exifted indepen- 
dent of him. Indeed, the copv, if we believe 
thofe Philofophers, falls very far ftiort of the 
original ; but this they feem to have afcribed 
D 2 to 


C HA P. to the refraftorinefs of matter, of which it was 

^^' made. 
^-"''^'"^ Scco7idly, if the world of ideas, without be- 
ing the work of a perfedly wife and good in- 
teUigent Being, could have fo much beauty 
and perfection, how can we infer from the 
beauty and order of this world, which is but 
an imperfect copy of the other, that it muft 
have been made by a perfedlly wife and good 
Being ? The force of this reafoning, from the 
beauty and order of the univerfe, to its being 
the work of a wife Being, which appears in- 
vincible to every candid mind, and appeared 
fo to thofe ancient Philofophers, is entirely de- 
ftroyed by the fuppofition of the exiftence of a 
world of ideas, of greater perfection and beau- 
ty, which never was made. Or, if the rear 
foning be good, it will apply to the world of 
ideas, which muft of confequence have been 
made by a wife and good intelligent Being, 
and muft have been conceived before it was 

It may farther be obferved, that all that is 
myfterious and unintelligible in the Platonic 
ideas, arifes from attributing exiftence to them. 
Take away this one attribute, all the reft, 
however pompoufly exprefied, are eafily ad- 
mitted and underftood. 

What is a Platonic idea ? It is the eflence of 
a fpecies. It is the exemplar, the model, ac- 
cording to which, all the individuals of that 
, fpecies are made. It is entire in every indivi- 

dual of the fpecies, without being multiplied 
or divided. It was an objedt of the Divine in- 
tellect from eternity, and is an objeft of con- 
templation and of fcience to every intelligent 
being. It is eternal, immutable, and uncrea- 
ted ; 


ted ; and, to crown all, it not only exifls, butC HAP. 
has a more real and permanent exiilence than ^^* 
any thing that ever God made. ^-^•^r— ' 

Take this defcription altogether, and it 
would require an Oedipus to unriddle it. But 
take away the laft part of it, and nothing is 
more eafy. It is eafy to find five hundred 
things which anfwer to every article in the de- 
fcription except the lad. 

Take for an inftance the nature of a circle, 
as it is defined by Euclid, an objeft which 
every intelligent being may conceive diflindlly, 
though no circle had ever exifted j it is the 
exemplar, the model, according to which all 
the individual figures of that fpecics that ever 
exifled were made ; for they are all made ac- 
cording to the nature of a circle. It is entire 
in every individual of the fpecies, without be- 
ing multiplied or divided : For every circle is 
an entire circle ; and all circles, in as far as 
they are circles, have one and the fame nature. 
It was an objed of the Divine intellect from all 
eternity, and may be an obje£t of contempla- 
tion and of fcience to every intelligent being. 
It is theeflence of a fpecies, and, like all other 
effences, it is eternal, immutable, and uncrea- 
ted. This means no more, but that a circle 
always was a circle, and can never be any thing 
but a circle. It is the neccffity of the thing, 
and not any aft of creating power, that makes 
a circle to be a circle. 

The nature of every fpecies, whether of 
fubflance, of quality, or of relation, and in 
general every thing which the ancients called 
an univerfal, anfwers to the defcription of a 
Platonic idea, if in that defcription you leave 
out the attribute of exiftence. 


38 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP. If we believe that no fpecles of things could 
^^- be conceived by the Ahiiighty without a mo- 
del that really exilfed, we muft go back to the 
Platonic fyftem, however myfterious. But if 
it be true, that the Deity could have a diflindi 
conception of things which did not exift, and 
that other intelligent beings may conceive ob- 
je£ls which do not exift, the fyftem has no 
better foundation than this prejudice, that the 
operations of mind muft be like thofe of the 

Aristotle rejected the ideas of his mafter 
Plato as vifionary ; but he retained the pre- 
judices that gave rife to them, and therefore 
fubftituted fomething in their place, but un- 
der a different name, and of a different origin. 
He called the objects of intelled, intelligi- 
ble fpccies ; thofe of the memory and imagi- 
nation, phantafms, and thofe of the fenfes, 
fenfible fpecies. This change of the name was 
indeed very fmall ; for the Greek word of 
Aristotle, which we tranflate fpecies or fonn, 
is fo near to the Greek word idea, both in its 
found and fignification, that, from their ety- 
mology, it would not be eafy to give them 
different meanings. Both are derived from 
the Greek word which fignifies to fee^ and 
both may fignify a vifion or appearance to the 
eye. Cicero, who underftood Greek well, 
often tranflates the Greek word idea by the 
Latin word vifio. But both words being ufed 
as terms of art, one in the Platonic lyflem, 
the other in the Peripatetic, the Latin writers 
generally borrowed the Greek word idea to 
exprefs the Platonic notion, and tranflated 
Aristotle's word, by the words /pedes or 

forma ; 


forma ; and In this they have been followed in^ ^ ^ P* 
the modern languages. .^^.^^ 

Thofe forms or fpecies were called intelligi- 
ble, to diftinguifli them from fenfible fpecies, 
which Aristotle held to be the immediate 
objedls of fenfe. 

He thought that the fenfible fpecies come 
from the external objefifc, and defined a fenfe 
to be that which ha> the capacity to receive the 
form of fenfible things without the matter ; as 
wax receives the form of a feal without any of 
the matter of it. In like manner, he thought 
that the intellect receives the forms of things 
intelligible, and he calls it the place of forms. 

I take it to have been the opinion of Aris- 
totle, that the intelligible forms in the hu- 
man intelleft are derived from the fenfible by 
abflraftion, and other operations of the mind 
itfelf. As to the intelligible forms in the di- 
vine intellect, they mud have had another 
origin ; but 1 do not remember that he give^ 
any opinion about them. He certainly main- 
tained, however, that there is no intellection 
without intelhgible fpecies ; no memory or 
imagination without phantafms ; no perception 
without fenfible fpecies. Treating of memory 
he propofes a difficulty, and endeavours to re- 
folve it, how a phantafm, that is a prefent ob- 
je£t in the mind, fhould reprefent a thing that 
is pad. 

Thus, I think, it appears, that the Peripa- 
tetic fyftem of fpecies and phantafms, as well 
as the Platonic fyftem of ideas, is grounded 
upon this principle, that in every kind of 
thought there mult be fome object that really 
exifts ; in every operation of the mind, fome- 
thing to work upon. Whether this immediate 




objed be called an idea with Plato, or a 
phantafm of fpecies with Aristotle ; whether 
it be eternal and uncreated, or produced by 
the impreffions of external objefts, is of no 
confequence in the prefent argument. In both 
fyllems it w-as thought impoflible that the Deity 
could make the world without matter to work 
upon. In both it was thought impoflible, that 
an intelligent Being could conceive any thing 
that did not exift, but by means of a model 
that really exifted. 

The Philofophers of the Alexandrian fchool, 
commonly called the latter Piatonifts, conceiv- 
ed the .eternal ideas of things to be in the Di- 
vine intellect, and thereby avoided the abfur- 
dity of making them a principle diftinft from 
and independent of the Deity ; but flill they 
held them to exift really in the Divine mind as 
the objeds of conception, and as the patterns 
and archetypes of things that are made. 

Modern Philofophers, flill perfuaded that of 
every thought there muft be an immediate ob- 
jed that really exifls, have not thought it ne- 
celTary to diftinguifh by different names the im- 
mediate objeds of intelled, of imagination, 
and of the fenfes, but have given the common 
name of idea to them all. 

Whether thefe ideas be in the fenforium, or 
in the mind, or partly in the one, and partly 
in the other ; "whether they exift when they 
are not perceived, or only when they are 
perceived ; whether they are the workman- 
{liip of the Deity or of the mind itfelf, or of 
external natural caufes ; with regard to thefe 
points, different authors feem to have different 
opinions, and the fame author fometimes to 
waver or be difiident ; but as to their exiftence, 
there feems to be great unanimity. 



So much is this opinion fixed in the minds CHAP, 
of Philofophers, that I doubt not but it will ^^• 
appear to mofl a very (Irange paradox, or ra- 
ther a contradiction that men lliould think 
without ideas. 

1 hat it has the appearance of a contradiftion, 
I confefs. But this appearance arifes from the 
^ambiguity of the word idea. If the idea of a 
thing means only the thought of it, or the ope- 
ration of the mind in thinking about it, which 
is the mod common meaning of the word, to 
think without ideas, is to think without., 
thought, which is undoubtedly a contradidion. 

But an idea according to the definition given 
of it by Philofophers, is not thought, but an 
object of thought, which really exifts, and is 
perceived. Now whether is it a contradidion 
to fay, that a man may think of an object that 
does not exifl ? 

I acknowledge that a man cannot perceive 
an object that does not exift ; nor can he re- 
member an objed: that did not exift; ; but there 
appears to me no contradiction in his conceiv- 
ing an object that neither does, nor ever did 
exifl ? 

Let us take an example. I conceive a cen- 
taur. This conception is an operation of the 
mind, of which I am confcious, and to which 
I can attend. The fole objed: of it is a centaur, 
an animal which I believe never exifled. I 
can fee no contradiction in this. 
• The Philofopher fays, I cannot conceive a 
centaur without having an idea of it in my 
mind. I am at a lofs to underfland what he 
means. He furely does not mean that 1 can- 
not conceive it without conceiving it. This 
would make me no wifer. What then is this 

idea ? 

42 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP, iclea ? Is it an animal, half horfe and half man? 

IT ' ^ ^ 

• No. Then I am certain it is not the thing I 
conceive. Perhaps he will fay, that the idea 
is an image of the animal, and is the immedi- 
ate objeft of my conception, and that the ani- 
mal is the mediate or remote obje£t. 

To this I anfwer : Firji^ I am certain there 
are not two objeds of this conception, but one 
only ; and that one is as immediate an objedl 
of my conception as any can be. 

Secondly^ This one object which I conceive, 
is not the image of an animal, it is an animal. 
I know what it is to conceive an image of an 
animal, and what it is to conceive an animal ; 
and I can diftinguifh the one of thefe from the 
other without any danger of miftake. The 
thing 1 conceive is a body of a certain figure 
and colour, having life and fpontaneous mo- 
tion. The Philofopher fays that the idea is an 
image of the animal, but that it has neither 
body, nor colour, nor life, 'nor fpontaneous 
motion. This I am not able to comprehend. 

Thirdly^ I wifh to know how this idea comes 
to be an object of my thought, when I cannot 
even conceive what it means ; and if I did con- 
ceive it, this would be no evidence of its exift- 
ence, any more than my conception of a cen- 
taur is of its exiftence. Philofophers fome- 
times fay that we perceive ideas, fometimes 
that we are confcious of them. I can have no 
doubt of the exiftence of any thing, which I 
either perceive, or of which I am confcious ; 
but I cannot find that I either perceive ideas or 
am confcious of them. 

Perception and confcioufnefs are very differ- 
ent operations, and it is ftrange that Philofo- 
phers have never determined by which of them 



ideas are difcerned. This is as if a man fhould^ ^^ ^' 
pofitively affirm that he perceived an object, 
but whether by his eyes, or his ears, or his 
touch, he could not fay. 

But may not a man who conceives a centaur 
fay, that he has a diftind image of it in his 
mind ? I think he may. And if he means by 
this way of fpeaking what the vulgar mean, 
who never heard of the philofophicai theory of 
ideas, I find no fault with it. By a diftindl 
image in the mind, the vulgar mean a diflinct 
conception ; and it is natural to call it fo, on 
account of the analogy between an image of a 
thing and the conception of it. On account 
of this analogy, obvious to all mankind, this 
operation is called imagination, and an image 
in the mind is only a periphrafis for imagina- 
tion. iBut to infer from this that there is really 
an image in the mind, diftinft from the ope- 
ration of conceiving the objeft, is to be mifled 
by an analogical expreffidrTfl as if, from the 
phrafes of deliberating and fj^l'ancing things in 
the mind, we fhould infer that there is really a 
balance exifling in the mind for weighing 
motives and arguments. 

The analogical words and phrafes, ufed in 
all languages to exprefs conception, do no 
doubt facilitate their being taken in a literal 
fenfe. But if we only attend carefully to what 
we are confcious of in this operation, we fhall 
find no more reafon to think that images do 
really exift in our own minds, than that balan- 
ces and other mechanical engines do. 

We know of nothing that is in the mind 
but by confcioufnefs, and we are confcious of 
nothing but various modes of thinking ; fuch 
as underftanding, willing, atlection, pafiion, 


44 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP, doing, fuffering. If Philofophers chufe to 
give the name of an idea to any mode of think- 

^'^'^^^ ing, of which we are confcious, I have no ob- 
jedion to the name ; but that it introduces a 
foreign word into our language without ne- 
ceffity, and a word that is very ambiguous, 
and apt to miilead. But if they give that name 
to images in the mind, which are not thought, 
but only objeds of thought, I can fee no reafon 
to think that there are fuch things in nature. 
If they be, their exiflence and their nature 
mufl be more evident than any thing elfe, be- 
caufe we know nothing but by their means. 
I may add, that if they be, we can know noth- 
ing befides them. For, from the exiflence of 
images, we can never, by any juft reafoning, 
infer the exiflence of any thing elfe, unlefs 
perhaps the exiflence of an intelligent Author 
of them. In this Bifhop Berkeley reafoned 

In every work of defign, the work mufl be 
conceived before it is executed, that is, before 
it exifts. If a model, confifling of ideas, 
mufl exift in the mind, as the objeft of this 
conception, that model is a work of defign no 
lefs than the other, of which it is the model ; 
and therefore, as a work of defign, it mufl 
have been conceived before it exifled. In 
every work of defign, therefore, the concep- 
tion mufl go before the exiflence. This ar- 
gument we applied before to the Platonic fyf- 
tem of eternal and immutable ideas, and it 
may be applied with equal force to all the fyf- 
tems of ideas. 

If now it fhould be afked. What is the idea 

, y'',. of a circle ? I anfwer. It is the conception of a 

/' ^ t circle. What is the immediate objed of this 



conception ? The immediate and the only ob-C HAP. 
jeft of it is a circle. But where is this circle ? ^^• 
It is no where. If it was an individual, and^''^'' 
had a real exiflence, it muft have a place ; but 
being an univerfal, it has no exiflence, and 
therefore no place. Is it not in the mind of 
him that conceives it ? The conception of it 
is in the- mind, being an ad of the mind; and 
in common language, a thing being in the 
mind, is a figurative exprefTion, fignifying 
that the thing is conceived or remembered. 

It may be afl^ed. Whether this conception 
is an image or refemblance of a circle ? 1 an- 
fwer, I have already accounted for its being, 
in a figurative fcnfe, called the image of a 
circle in the mind. If the queftion is meant in 
the literal fenfe, we mufl obferve, that the 
word conception has two meanings. Properly 
it fignifies that operation of the mind which we 
have been endeavouring to explain ; but fome- 
times it is put for the objed of conception, or 
thing conceived. 

Now, if the queflion be underflood in the 
laft of thefe fenfes, the objed of this concepti- 
on is not an image or refemblance of a circle ; 
for it is a circle, and nothing can be an image 
<)i itfelf. 

If the queflion be. Whether the operation 
of mind in conceiving a circle be an image or 
refemblance of a circle ? I think it is not ; and 
that no two things can be more perfectly un- 
like, than a fpecies of thought and a fpecies of 
figure. Nor is it more llrange that conception 
fhould have no refemblance to the objed con- 
ceived, than that defire fhould have no refem- 
blance to the object defired, or refentment to 
the objeQ; of refentment. 

I can 

46 E S S A Y IV. 

P- I can likewife conceive an individual objeft 
that really exifts, fuch as St. Paul's church 
in London. I have an idea of it ; that is, I 
conceive it. jTThe immediate objed of this 
conception is "four hundred miles dillant ; and 
I have no reafon to think that it acls upon me, 
or that I acl upon it ; but I can think of it 
notwithflanding.y I can think of the firft year, 
or the lafl year^or the Julian period. 

If, after all, it Ihould be thought, that ima- 
ges in the mind ferve to account for this facul- 
ty of conceiving things moft diftant in time 
and place, and even things which do not exift, 
which otherwife would be altogether incon- 
ceivable ; to this I anfwer, That accounts of 
things, grounded upon conjecture, have been 
the bane of true philofophy in all ages. Ex- 
perience may fatisfy us, that it is an hundred 
times more probable that they are falfe than 
that they are true. 

This account of the faculty of conception, 
by images in the mind, or in the brain, will 
defcrve the regard of thofe who have a true 
tafte in philofophy, when it is proved by folid 
argum.ents, jirjl^ That there are images in the 
mind, or in the brain, of the things we con- 
ceive. Secondly, That there is a faculty in the 
mind of perceiving fuch images. Thirdly, 
That the perception of fuch images produces 
the conception of things moft diftant, and even 
of things that have no exiftence. .And, fourth- 
ly. That the perception of individual images 
in the mind, or in the brain, gives us the con- 
ception of univerfals, which are the attributes 
of many individuals. Until this is done, the 
theory of images exifting in the mind, or in 
the brain, ought to be placed in the fame ca- 


tegory with the fenfible fpecies, and w^^fm^^HAP. 
prima of Aristotle, and the vortices of Des 


Mijlakes concerning Conception. 

i.TT WRITERS on Logic, after the ex- 
Y V ample of Aristotle, divide the 
operations of the underftanding into three ; 
fimple apprehenfion, which is another word 
for conception, judgment, and reafoning. 
They teach us, that reafoning is exprelTed by 
a fyllogifm, judgment by a propofition, and 
fimple apprehenfion by a term only, that is, 
by one or more words which do not make a 
full propofition, but only the fubjecl or predi- 
cate of a propofition. If by this they mean, as 
I think they do, that a propofition, or even a 
fyllogifm, may not be fimply apprehended, I 
believe this is a miflake. 

In all judgment and in all reafoning concep- 
tion is included. We can neither judge of a 
propofition, nor reafon about it, unlefs wc 
conceive or apprehend it. We may diftindlly 
conceive a propofition, without judging of it 
at all. We may have no evidence on one fide 
or the other ; we may have no concern whe- 
ther it be true or falfe. In thefe cafes we com- 
monly form no judgment about it, though we 
perfedly underftand its meaning. 

A man may difcourfe or plead, or write, 
for other ends than to find the truth. His 
learning, and wit, and invention, may be em- 
ployed, while his judgment is not at all, or 


48 E S S A Y IV. 

^ m"^ ^' ^^^^ ^^"^^' ^^^^^^ ^^ i^ ^°^ truth, but fomc 

^_^_,^^^;_^ other end he purfues, judgment would be an 

impediment, unlefs for difcovering the means 

of attaining his end ; and therefore it is laid 

afide, or employed folely for that purpofe. 

The bufmefs of an orator is faid to be, to 
find out what is fit to perfuade. This a man 
may do with much ingenuity, who never took 
the trouble to examine whether it ought to 
perfuade or not. Let it not be thought, there- 
fore, that a man judges of the truth of every 
propofition he utters, or hears uttered. In 
our commerce with the world, judgment is 
not the talent that bears the greatefl price ; and 
therefore thofe who are not fincere lovers of 
truth, lay up this talent, where it rufts and 
corrupts, while they carry others to market, 
for which there is greater demand. 

2. The divifion commonly made, by Logi- 
cians, of fimple apprehenfion, into fenfation, 
imagination, and pure intelleclion, feems to 
me very improper in feveral refpeds. 

iv/y?. Under the word fenfation, they in- 
clude not only what is properly fo called, but 
the perception of external objects by the fenfes. 
Thefe are very different operations of the mind; 
and although they are commonly conjoined by 
nature, ought to be carefully didinguifhed by 

Secondly, Neither fenfation, nor the percep- 
tion of external objefts, is fimple apprehenfi- 
on. Bothinclude judgment and belief, which 
are excluded from fimple apprehenfion. 

Thirdly, They diftinguiih imagination from 
pure intellection by this, that in imagination 
the image is in the brain, in pure intellection 
it is in the intellect. This is to ground a dif- 



llndlon upon an hypothefis. We have no evi-C HAP, 
dence that there are images either in the brain ^^^■ 
or in the intelledl. <— v— ' 

I take imagination, in its moft proper fenfe, M^tpa^^t^/' 
to fignify a lively conception of objects of / 
fight. This is a talent of in\portance to poets 
and orators, and deferves a proper name, on 
account of its connexion with thofe arts. Ac- 
cording to this ftrid: meaning of the word, 
imagination is diftinguifhed from conception 
as a part from the whole. We conceive the 
objects of the other fenfes, but it is notfo pro- 
per to fay that we imagine them. We conceive 
judgment, reafoning, propofitions, and argu- 
ments ; but it is rather improper to fay that we 
imagine thefe things. 

This diflindion between imagination and 
conception, may be illuftrated by an example, 
which Des Cartes ufes to ilkiftrate the diftinc- 
tion between imagination and pure intellection. 
We can imagine a triangle or a fquare fo clear- 
ly as to diftinguifh them from every other fi- 
gure. But we cannot imagine a figure of a 
thoufand equal fides and angles, fo clearly. 
The befl eye, by looking at it, could not dif- 
tinguifli it from every figure of more or fewer 
fides. And that conception of its appearance 
to the eye, which we properly call imagination, 
cannot be more diflinci than the appearance 
itfelf; yet we can conceive a figure of a thou- 
fand fides, and even can demonllrate the pro- 
perties which diftinguifh it from all figures of 
more or fewer fides. It is not by the eye, but 
by a fuperior faculty, that we form the ncticii 
of a great number, fuch as a thoufand: And 
a diftind: notion of this number of fides not 
being to be got by the eye, it is not imagined 
Vol. II, E but 



CH A P.but it is diftinctly conceived, and eafily diflin- 

"^' guifiied from every other number. 
^^^^^i^<^ 2* Simple apprehenfion is commonly repre- 
fented as the firft operation of the underftand- 
ing; and judgment, as being a compofition or 
combination of fimple apprehenfions. 

This miftake has probably arifen from the 
taking fenfation, and the perception of objefts 
by the fenfcs, to be nothing but fimple appre- 
henfion. They are very probably the firft ope- 
rations of the mind, but they are not fimple 

It is generally allowed, that we cannot con- 
ceive founds if we have never heard, nor co- 
lours if we have never feen; and the fame 
thing may be faid of the objefts of the other 
fenfes. In like manner, we muft have judged 
or reafoned before we have the conception or 
fimple apprehenfion of judgment, and of rea- 

Simple apprehenfion, therefore, though it 
be the fimpleft, is not the firft operation of the 
underftanding ; and inftead of faying, that the 
more complex operations of the mind are 
formed by compounding fimple apprehenfions, 
we ought rather to fay, that fimple apprehen- 
fions are got by analyfing more complex ope- 

A firoilar miftake, which is carried through 
the whole of Mr. Locke's Effay, may be here 
mentioned. It is, that our fimpleft ideas or 
conceptions are got immediately' by the fenfes, 
or by confcioufnefs, and the complex after- 
Tvsrds tbrmed by compounding them. I ap- 
prehend, it is far othertvife. 

Nat'jire prefents na objed to the fenfes, or 
to^ confcioufnefs, that is not compkx. Thus, 



by our fenfes we perceive bodies of variousC H A P. 
kinds; but every body is a complex objed; ^^^• 
it has length, breadth, and thicknefs ; it has' 
figure, and colour, and various other fenfible 
qualities, which are blended together in the 
fame fubjed; and I apprehend, that brute ani- 
mals, who have the fame fenfes that we have, 
cannot feparatc the different qualities belonging 
to the fame fubjedl, and have only a complex 
and confufed notion of the whole: Such alfo 
•would be our notions of the objedts of fenfe, 
if we had not fuperior powers of underftand- 
ing, by which we can analyfe the complex ob- 
jefl:, abflract every particular attribute from 
the reft, and form a diftind: conception of it. 

So that it is not by the fenfes immediately, 
but rather by the powers of analyfmg and ab- 
ftradion, that we get the moft fimple, and the 
moft diftihdl notions even of the objeds of 
fenfe. This will be more fully explained in 
another place. 

4. There remains another miftake concern-^ 
ing conception, which deferves to be noticed. 
It is, that our conception of things is a teft of 
their poffibility, fo that, what we can dillinftly 
conceive, we may conclude to be poffible; 
and of what is impoffible, we can have no 

This opinion has been held by Philofophers 
for more than an hundred years, without con- 
tradidion or diffent, as far as I know; and if 
it be an error, it may be of fome ufe to enquire 
into its origin, and the caufes that it has been 
fo generally received as a maxim, whofe truth 
could not be brought into doubt. 

One of thefruitlefs queftions agitated among 

the fcholaftic Philofophers in the dark ages was, 

E 2 What 



CHAP. What is the criterion of truth ? as if men 
^^^- could have any other way to diftinguifli truth 
from error, but by the right ufe of that power 
of judging which God has given them. 

Des Cartes endeavoured to put an end to 
.this controverfy, by making it a fundamental 
principle in his fyftem, that whatever we clear- 
ly and diftinclly perceive, is true. 
^ To underftand this principle of Des Car- 
tes, it muft be obferved, that he gave the 
name of perception to every power of the hu- 
man underftanding; and in explaining this 
very maxim, he tells us, that fenfe, imagina- 
tion, and pure intelledion, are only different 
modes of perceiving, and fo the maxim was 
underftood by all his followers. , ; 
.'.;, The learned Dr. Cupworth feems alfo to 
have adopted this principle: " The criterion 
" of true knowledge, fays he, is only to be 
" looked for in our knowledge and concepti- 
*' tions themfelves : For the entity of all theo- 
*' retical truth is nothing elfe but clear intel- 
*' ligibility, and whatever is clearly conceived 
" is an entity and a truth ; but that which is 
-'' falfe. Divine power itfelf cannot make it to 
*' be clearly and diftindly underftood. A 
*' falfehood can never be clearly conceived or 
*' apprehended to be true." Etern. and Im- 
;jnut. MoraHty, p. 172, Eff^. 

This Cartefian maxim feems to me to have 
led the way to that now under confideration, 
which feems to have been adopted as the pro- 
per correction of the former.. When the au- 
thority of Des Cartes declined, men began 
to fee that we may clearly and diftin£lly con- 
ceive what is not, true, but thought, that our 
conception, though not in all cafes a teft of 
truth, might be a teft of poffibility. 



This indeed feems to be a neceffary confe-C HAP. 
quence of the received doftrine of ideas; it ,ji^^,^ 
being evident, that there can be no diftind 
image, either in the mind or any where elfe, 
of that which is impoffible. The ambiguity 
of the word conceive^ which we obferved Effay 
I. chap. I. and the common phrafeology of 
faying we cannot conceive fuch a thing, when 
we would fignify that we think it impoffible, 
might likewife contribute to the reception of ■ 
this dodrine. 

But whatever was the origin of this opinion, 
it feems to prevail univerfally, and to be re- 
ceived as a maxim. 

" The bare having an idea of the propofition 
** proves the thing not to be impoffible; for 
" of an impoffible propofition there can be no 
" idea." Dr. Sam. Clarke. 

" Of that which neither does nor can exift 
" we can have no idea." L. Bolingbroke. 
" The meafure of impoffibility to us is in- 
" conceivablenefs, that of which we can have 
*' no idea, but that reflefting upon it, it ap- 
*' pears to be nothing, we pronounce to be 
" impoffible." Abbernethy. 

" In every idea is implied the poffibility of 
" the exiflence of its objeft, nothing being 
" clearer than that there can be no idea of an 
" impoffibility, or conception of what cannot 
" exift." Dr. Price. 

" Impoffibile eft cujus nullam notionem for- 
" mare poffiimus; poffibile e contra, cui ali- 
" qua refpondet notio." Wolfii Ontolog. 
" It is an eftablifhed maxim in metaphyfics, 
" that whatever the mind conceives, includes 
" the idea of poffible exiftence, or, in other 
" words, that nothing we imagine is abfolutely 
" impoffible." D. Hums, - •• 


54 ^ E S S A Y IV. 

It were eafy to mufter up many other ref- 
pcftable authorities for this maxim, and I have 
never found one that called it in queftion. 

If the maxim be true in the extent which 
the famous Wolfius has given it, in the paf- 
fage above quoted, we fhall have a fhort road 
to the determination of every queflion about 
the poiTibility or impoliibility of things. We 
need only look into our own bread, and that, 
like the Urim and Thummim, will give an in- 
fallible anfwer. If we can conceive the thing, 
it is poffible; if not, it is impoffible. And 
furely every man may know whether he can 
conceive what is affirmed or not. 

Other Philofophers have been fatisfied with 
one half of the maxim of Wolfius. They 
fay, that whatever we can conceive is poffible ; 
but they do not fay, that whatever we cannot 
conceive is impoffible. 

I cannot help thinking even this to be a mif- 
take, which Philofophers have been unwarily 
led into, from the caufes before mentioned. 
My reafons are thefe : 

I. Whatever is faid to be poffible or impof- 
fible is expreffisd by a propofition. Now, 
What is it to conceive a propofition? I think 
it is no more than to underfland diftinctly its 
meaning. I know no more that can be meant 
by fimple apprehenfion or conception, when 
applied to a propofition. The axiom, there- 
fore, amounts to this: Every propofition, of 
which you underftand the meaning diftinclly, 
is poffible. I am perfuaded, that I underftand 
as diftindlly the meaning of this propofition. 
Any twojtdes of a triangle are together equal to 
the thirds as of this, Any two fides of a triangle 
are together greater than the third; yet the firft 
of thefe is impoffiblci 



Perhaps it will be faid, that though you un-^ HAP. 
derfland the meaning of the impoffible propo- 
fition, you cannot fuppofc or conceive it to be 

Here we are to examine the meaning of the 
phrafes oi fiippofing and conceiving a propofition 
to be true. I can certainly fuppofe it to be 
true, becaufe I can draw confequences from it 
which I find to be impoffible, as well as the pro- 
pofition itfehS. 

If by conceiving it to be true be meant giv- 
ing fome degree of afient to it, however fmall, 
this, I confefs, I cannot do. But will it be 
faid, that every propofition to which I can give 
any degree of alTent is poffible? This contra- 
dicts experience, and therefore the maxim can- 
not be true in this fenfe. 

Sometimes, when we fay that we cannot con^ 
c^ive a thing to be true, we mean by that ex- 
preffion, that we Judge it to be impojjible. In this 
fenfe, I cannot, indeed, conceive it to be true, 
that two fides of a triangle are equal to the 
third. I judge it to be impoffible. If, then, 
we undcritand in this fenfe that maxim, that 
nothing we can conceive is impoffible, the 
meaning will be, that nothing is impoffible 
which we judge to be poinble. But does it not 
often happen, that what one man judges to be 
poffible, another man judges to be impoffible? 
The maxim, therefore, is not true in tiiis 

1 am not able to find any other meaning of 
conceiving a propofition^ or of conceiving it to hs 
true, befides thcfe I have mentioned. 1 know 
nothing that can be meant by having the idea 
of a propofition, but either the underflanding 
its^ meaning, or the judging of its truth. lean 



C H A P-underftand a proportion that is falfe or impofli- 
ble, as wei! as one that is true or pofTible ; and 

^^^'^^I find that men have contradictory judgments 
about what is pofiible or impoflible, as well as 
about other things. In what fenfe then can it 
be faid, that the having an idea of a propor- 
tion gives certain evidence that it is poffible ? 

If it be faid, that the idea of a propofition 
is an image of it in the mind ; I think indeed 
there cannot be a diftind image either in the 
mind, or elfewhere, of that which is impofli- 
ble ; but what is meant by the image of a pro- 
pofition I am not able to comprehend, and I 
fliall be glad to be informed. 

2. Every propofition that is neceflarily true, 
ftands oppofed to a contradictory propofition 
that is impoffible ; and he that conceives one, 
conceives both : Thus a man who believes that 
two and three neceflarily make five, mufl be- 
lieve it to be impoffible that two and three 
fhould not make five. He conceives both pro- 
pofitions when he believes one. Every propo- 
fition carries its contradiftory in its bofom, and 
both are conceived at the fame time. " It is 
" confefled, fays Mr. Hume, that in all cafes 
" where we diflent from any perfon, we con- 
" ceive both fides of the queflion, but we can 
" believe only one." From this it certainly 
follows, that when we diifent from any perfon 
about a necefiarv propofition, we conceive one 
that is impoffible ; yet I know no Philofopher 
who has made fo much ufe of the maxim, that 
whatever we conceive is poffible, as Mr. 
Hume. A great part of his peculiar tenets is 
built upon it ; and if it is true, they mufl; be 
true. But he did not perceive, that in the 


MISTAKES concerning CONCEPTION. 5^: 

paffage now quoted, the truth of which is evi-C H A P. 
dent, he contradicts it himfelf. ^^^- ^ 

!:^. Mathematicians have, in many ciifes, pro- 
ved fome things to be poffible, and others to 
be impolTible ; which, without demonftration, 
would not have been believed : Yet I have 
never found, that any Mathematician has at- 
tempted to prove a thing to be poffible, be- 
caufe it can be conceived ; or impoffible, be- 
caufe it cannot be conceived. Why is not tliis 
maxim applied to determine whether it is poffi- 
ble to fquare the circle ? a point about which 
very eminent Mathematicians have differed. 
It is eafy to conceive, that in the infinite feries 
of numbers, and intermediate fradions, fome 
one number, integral or fractional, may bear 
the fame ratio to another, as the fide of a 
fquare bears to its diagonal ; yet, however con- 
ceivable this may be, it may be demonflrated 
to be impoffible. 

4. Mathematicians often require us to con- 
ceive things that are impoffible, in order to 
prove them to be fo. This is the cafe in all 
their demonftrations, ad abfurdiwi. Conceive, 
fays Euclid, a right line drawn from one 
point of the circumference of a circle to ano- 
ther, to fall without the circle ; I conceive this, 
I reafon from it, until I come to a confequence 
that is manifeftly abfurd ; and from thence 
conclude, that the thing which I conceived is 

Having faid fo much to fhew, that our pow- 
er of conceiving a propofition is no criterion 
of its poffibility or impoffibihty, I ffiall add a 
few obfervations on the extent of our know- 

ledge of this kind. 

I. There 

S^ E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP. I. There are many propofitions which, by 
^^^- the facukies God has given us, we judge to be 
neceilary, as well as true. All mathematical 
propofitions a,re of this kind, and many others. 
The contradidories of fuch propofitions mud 
be iinpoffible. Our knowledge, therefore, of 
what is impoffible, mud at leaft be as exten- 
five as our knowledge of neceffary truth. 

2. By our fenfes, by memory, by teftimony, 
and by other means, we know many things to 
be true, which do not appear to be necelfary. 
But whatever is true, is poffible. Our know- 
ledge, therefore, of what is poffible, muft at 
leail extend as far as our knowledge of truth. 

3. If a man pretends to determine the poffi- 
bility or impoffibility of things beyond thefe 
limits, let him bring proof. I do not fay that 
no ftich proof can be brought. It has been 
brought in many cafes, particularly in mathe- 
matics. But I fay, that his being able to con- 
ceive a thing, is no proof that it is poffible. 
Mathematics afford many inftances of impoffi- 
bilities in the nature of things^ which no man 
would have believed, if they had not been 
ftridly demonftrated. Perhaps, if we were 
able to reafon demonftratively in other fub- 
jecls, to as great extent as in mathematics, we 
might find many things to be iinpoffible, which 
we conclude, without hefitation, to be poffible. 

It is poffible, you fay, that God might have 
made an univerfe of fenfible and rational crea- 
tures, into which neither natural nor moral 
evil fhould ever enter. It may be fo, for 
what I know : But how do you know that it is 
poffible ? That you can conceive it, I grant ; 
but this is no proof. I cannot admit, as an 
argument, or even as a preffing difficulty, 


Of the Train of Thought in the Mind. 5^ 

what is grounded on the fuppofition that fudi CHAP, 
a thing is poffible, when there is no good evi- ^^• 
dence that it is poilible, and, for any thing we "''"' 
know, it may in the nature of things be im« 

C- II A P. IV. 

Of ihe 'Train of 'Thought in the Mind. 

EVERY man is confcious of a fucceffion. 
of thoughts which pafs in his mind while 
he is awake, even when they are not excited 
by external objefts. 

The mind on this account may be compared 
to liquor in the (late of fermentation. When 
it is not in this ftate, being once at reft, it 
remains at reft, until it is moved by fome ex- 
ternal impulfe. But, in the ftate of fermenta- 
tion, it has fome caufe of motion in itfelf, 
which, even when there is no impulfe from 
without, fuifers it not to be at reft a moment, 
but produces a cpnftant motion and ebullition, 
while it continues to ferment. 

There is furely no fmiilitude between motion 
and thought ; but there is an analogy, fo ob- 
vious to all men, that the fame words are often 
applied to both ; and many modifications ot 
thought have no name but fuch as is borrowed 
from the modifications of motion. Many 
thoughts are excited by the fenfes. The cau- 
fes or occafions of thefe may be confidered as 
external : But, when fuch external caufes do 
not operate upon us, we continue to think 
from fome internal caufe. From the conftitu- 
tion of the mind itfelf there is a conftant ebul- 


C H A P.lltlon of thought, a conftant Inteftine motion; 
• not only of thoughts barely fpeculative, but of 
^'^'"^ fentiments, paffions and afleftions, which at- 
tend them. 

This continued fucceffion of thought has, 
by modern Philofophers, been called the ima' 
gination. I think it was formerly called the 
fancy, or the phantafy. If the old name be 
laid alide, it were to be wilhed that it had got 
a name lefs ambiguous than that of imaginati- 
on, a name which had two or three meanings 

It is often called the train of ideas. This 
may lead one to think that it is a train of bare 
conceptions ; but this would furely be a mif- 
take. It is made up of many other operations 
of mind, as well as of conceptions, or ideas. 

Memory, judgment, reafoning, paffions, af- 
feftions and purpofes ; in a word, every ope- 
ration of the mind, excepting thofe of fenfe, is 
exerted occafionally in this train of thought, 
and has its fhare as an ingredient : So that we 
muft take the word idea in a very extenfive 
fenfe, if v/e make the train of our thoughts to 
be only a train of ideas. 

To pafs from the name, and confider the 
thing, we may obferve, that the trains of 
thought in the mind are of two kinds ; they 
are either fuch as flow fpontaneoufly, like wa- 
ter from a fountain, without any exertion of a 
governing principle to arrange them ; or they 
are regulated and directed by an adive effort 
of the mind, with fome view and intention. 

Before we confider thefe in their order, it is 
proper to premife, that thefe two kinds, how- 
ever diftind in their nature, are for the moil 


Of the Train of Thought in the Mind. 6i 

part mixed, in perfons awake and come toC H A P. 
years of underftanding. y_^ - .it 

On the one hand, we are rarely fo vacant 
of all project and defign, as to let our thoughts 
take their own courfe, without the leaft check 
or direction : Or if at any time we fhould be 
in this flate, fome objed; will prefent itfelf, 
■which is too interefting not to engage the at- 
tention, and roufe the a£live or contemplative 
powers that were at reft. 

On the other hand, when a man is giving 
the moft intenfe application to any fpeculation, 
or to any fcheme of condufl:, when he wills to 
exclude every thought that is foreign, to his 
prefent purpofe, fuch thoughts will often im- 
pertinently intrude upon him, in fpite of his 
endeavours to the contrary, and occupy, by a 
kind of violence, fome part of the time defti- 
ned to another purpofe. One man may have 
the command of his thoughts more than ano- 
ther man, and the fame man more at one time 
than at another : But I apprehend, in the beft 
trained mind the thoughts will fometimes be 
reftive, fometimes capricious and felf-willed, 
when wc wifti to have them moft under com- 

It has been obferved very juftly, that we 
muft not afcribe to the mind the power of cal- 
ling up any thought at pleafure, becaufe fuch 
a call or volition fuppofes that thought to be 
already in the mind ; for otherwife, how 
fliould it be the objeQ: of volition ? As this 
muft be granted on the one hand, fo it is no 
lefs certain on the other, that a man has a con- 
fiderable power in regulating and difpofmg his 
own thoughts. Of this every man is confci- 


62 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP, ous, and I can no more doubt of it, than 1 
*• can doubt whether I think at all. 

We feem to treat the thoughts that prefent 
themfelves to the fancy in crowds, as a great 
man treats thofe that attend his levee. They 
are all ambitious of his attention ; he goes 
round the circle, bellowing a bow upon one, 
a fmile upon another ; afks a (liort queftion of 
a third ; while a fourth is honoured with a 
particular conference ; and the greater part 
have no particular mark of attention, but go 
as they came. It is true, he can give no mark 
of his attention to thofe who were not there, 
but he has a fufficient number for making a 
choice and diftinftion. 

In like manner, a number of thoughts pre- 
fent themfelves to the fancy fpontaneoufly j 
but if we pay no attention to them, nor hold 
any conference with them, they pafs with the 
crowd, and are immediately forgot, as if they 
had never appeared. But thofe to which we 
think proper to pay attention, may be flopped, 
examined, and arranged, for any particular 
purpofe we have in view. 

It may Ukewife be obferved, that a train of 
thought, which was at firfl compofed by appli- 
cation and judgment, when it has been often 
repeated, and becomes familiar, will prefent 
itfelf fpontaneoufly. Thus when a man has 
compofed an air in mufic, fo as to pleafe his 
own ear ; after he has played, or fung it often, 
the notes v»'ill arrange themfelves in juft order; 
and it requires no etfort to regulate their fuc- 

Thus we fee, that the fancy is made up of 
trains of thinking ; fome of which are fponta- 
neous, others ftudied and regulated j and the 


Of the Train of Thought in the Mind^ Cr 

greater part are mixed of both kinds, andCHAP. 
take their denomination from that which is IV. 
mod prevalent : And that a train of thought, ' ^~^ 
which at firfl was ftudied and compofed, may 
by habit prefent itfelf fpontaneouily. Having 
-premifed thefe things, let us return to thofe 
trains of thought which are fpontaneous, which 
mud be firfl in the order of nature. 

When the work of the day is over, and a 
man lies down to relax his body and mind, he 
cannot ceafe from thinking, though he defires 
it. Something occurs to his fancy ; that is fol- 
lowed by another thing, and fo his thoughts are 
carried on from one obje£t to another, until 
ileep clofes the fcene. 

In this operation of the mind, it is not one 
faculty only that is employed ; there are many 
that join together in its production. Some- 
times the tranfactions of the day are brought 
upon the ftage, and afted over again, as it 
were, upon this theatre of the imagination. 
-In this cafe, memory furely acts the mofl con- 
fiderable part, fmce the fcenes exhibited are 
•not fidions, but realities, which we remem- 
ber ; yet in this cafe the memory does not a£t 
alone, other powers are employed, and attend 
upon their proper objects. The tranfaftions 
remembered will be more or lefs interefting ; 
and we cannot then review our own conduct, 
-nor that of others, without paffing fome judg- 
-ment upon it. This we approve, that we dif- 
-approve. This elevates, that humbles and de- 
rpreflfes us. Perfons that are not abfolutely in- 
' different to us, can hardly appear, even to the 
imagination, without fome friendly or un- 
- friendly emotion. We j udge and reafon about 
things, as well as perfons in fuch reveries. We 



CHAP, remember what a man faid and did ; from this 


^^/l we pafs to his defigns, and to his general cha- 
racter, and frame fome hypothefis to make the 
whole confident. Such trains of thought we 
may call hiftorical. 

There are others which we may call roman- 
tic, in which the plot is formed by the creative 
power of fancy, without any regard to what 
did or will happen. In thefe alio, the powers 
of judgment, tafle, moral fentiment, as well 
as the paflions and affeftions, come in and 
take a fhare in the execution. 

In thefe fcenes, the man himfelf commonly 
a£ts a very diftinguifhed part, and feldom 
does any thing which he cannot approve. 
Here the mifer will be generous, the coward 
brave, and the knave honed. Mr. Addison, 
in the Spedator, calls this play of the fancy, 
cadle building. 

The young Politician, who has turned his 
thoughts to the affairs of government, becomes 
in his imagination a minider of date. He ex- 
amines every fpring and wheel of the machine 
of government with the niced eye, and the 
mod exact judgment. He finds a proper re- 
medy for every diforder of the commonwealth, 
quickens trade and manufactures by falutary 
laws, encourages arts and fciences, and makes 
the nation happy at home, and refpected 
abroad. He feels the reward of his good ad- 
minidration, in that felf-approbation which at- 
tends it, and is happy in acquiring, by his 
wife and patriotic conduct, the bleflings of the 
prefent age, and the praifes of thofe that are 
to come. 

It is probable, that, upon the dage of ima- 
gination, more great exploits have been per- 

Of the Train of Thought in the Mind. ^^ 

formed in every age, than have been upon theC M A P. 
flage of life from the beginning of the v\'orld. ^' • 
An innate defire of felf-approbation is undoubt- 
edly a part of the human conllitution. It is a 
powerful fpur to worthy conduct, and is in- 
tended as fuch by the Author of our being. 
A man cannot be eafy or happy, unlefs this 
defire be in fome meafure gratified. While he 
conceives himfelf worthlefs and bafe, he can 
relilh no enjoyment. The humiliating morti- 
fying fentiment muft be removed, and this na- 
tural defire of felf-approbation will either pro- 
duce a noble effort to acquire real worth, which 
is its proper direQion, or it will lead into fome 
of thofe arts of felf-deceit, which create a falfe 
opinion of worth. 

A caftle builder in the ficlitioiis fcenesof his 
fancy, will figure, not according to his real 
charader, but according to the highefl opinion 
he has been able to form of himfelf, and per- 
haps far beyond that opinion. For in thofe 
imaginary conflicts the paliions eafily yield to 
reafon, and a man exerts the noblelt efforts of 
virtue and magnanimity, with the fame eafe, 
as, in his dreams, he flies through the air, or 
plunges to the bottom of the ocean. 

The romantic fcenes of fancy are mofl com-^ 
monly the occupation of young minds, not yet 
fo deeply engaged in life as to have their 
thoughts taken up by its real cares and bufi- 

Thofe aftive powers of the mind, which are 
mofl luxuriant by conffcitution, or have been 
mofl cherifhed by education, impatient to ex- 
ert themfelves, hurry the thought into fcenes 
that give them play ; and the boy commences 
in imagination, according to the bent of his 

Vol. II. F mind, 

66 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP, mind, a general or a flatefman, a poet or an 
^Si^ orator. 

When the fair ones become caflle builders, 
they life different materials ; and while the 
young foldier is carried into the field of Mars, 
■where he pierces the thickeft fquadrons of the 
enemy, defpifmg death in all its forms, the 
gay and lovely nymph, whofe heart has never 
felt the tender paffion, is tranfported into a 
brilliant nlfembly, where flie draws the atten- 
tion of every eye, and makes an impreflion on 
the nobleft heart. 

But no fooner has Cupid's arrow found Its 
way into her own heart, than the whole fcenery 
of her imagination is changed. Balls and 
alTemblies have now no charms. Woods and 
groves, the flowery bank, and the cryftal foun- 
tain, are the fcenes llie frequents in imagina- 
tion. She becomes an Arcadian fhepherdefs, 
feeding her flock befide that of her Strephon, 
and wants no more to complete her happinefs. 

In a few years the love-fick maid is trans- 
formed into the folicitous mother. Her fmi- 
ling offspring play around her. She views 
them with a parents eye. Her imagina- 
tion immediately raifes them to manhood, and 
brings them forth upon the ftage of life. One 
ton makes a figure in the army, another fhines 
5it the bar ; her daughters are happily difpofed 
of in marriage, and bring new alliances to the 
family. Her childrcns children rife up before 
her, and venerate her gray hairs. 

Thus the fpontaneous fallies of fancy are as 
yarious as the cares and fears, the defires and 
hopes, of man. 

Slukquid agiint hom'nus^ voium, tinwr, ira, 

Gaudia, difcurfiis : 


Of the Train of Thought in the Mind. 67 

Thefe fill up the fcenes of fancy, as well as theC H A p. 
page of the Satyrift. Whatever pofleffes the ^^• 
heart makes occafional excurfions into the*^ 
imagination, and a£ls fuch fcenes upon that 
theatre as are agreeable to the prevailing palli- 
on. The man of traffic, who has committed 
a rich cargo to the inconftant ocean, follows 
it in his thought ; and, according as his hopes 
or his fears prevail, he is haunted with florms, 
and rocks, and fliipwreck ; or he makes a hap- 
py and a lucrative voyage ; and before his vefTel 
has loft fight of land, he has difpofed of the 
profit which fhe is to bring at her return. 

The Poet is carried into the Elyfian fields, 
where he converfes with the ghofts of Homer 
and Orpheus. The Philofopher makes a 
tour through the planetary fyftem, or goes 
down to the centre of the earth, and examines 
its various flrata. In the devout man likewife, 
the great objecls that poffefs his heart often 
play in his imagination j fometimes he is tranf- 
ported to the regions of the bleffed, from 
whence he looks down with pity upon the folly 
and the pageantry of human life ; or he prof- 
trates himfelf before the throne of the Moft 
High with devout veneration ; or he converfes 
with celeflial fpirits about the natural and mo- 
ral kingdom of God, which he now fees only 
by a faint light, but hopes hereafter to view 
with a fteadier and brighter ray. 

In perfons come to maturity, there is even in 
thefe fpontaneousfallies of fancy, fome arrange- 
ment of thought ; and I conceive that it will 
be readily allowed, that in thofe who have the 
greateft ftock of knowledge, and the beft na- 
tural parts, even the fpontaneous movem.ents 
of fancy will be the moft regular and connefted. 
F 2 They 

68 E S S A Y IV. 

C H AP- They have an order, connexion, and unity, 

^^- by which they are no lefs diftinguiflied from 

^ the dreams of one afleep, or the ravings of one 

delirious on the one hand, than from the fi- 

nifhed produ£lions of art on the other. 

How is this regular arrangement brought 
about ? It has all the marks of judgment and 
reafon, yet it feems to go before judgment, 
and to fpring forth fpontaneoufly. 

Shall we beUeve with Leibnitz, that the 
mind was originally formed like a watch wound 
up ; and that all its thoughts, purpofes, paffi- 
ons, and adrons, are effefted by the gradual 
evolution of the original fpring of the machine, 
and fucceed each other in order, as neceflarily 
as the motions and pulfations of a watch ? 

If a child of three or four years, were put 
to account for the phsenomena of a watch, he 
would conceive that there is a little man with- 
in the watch, or fome other little animal, that 
beats continually, and produces the motion. 
Whether the hypothecs of this young Philofo- 
pher in turning the watch fpring into a man, 
or that of the German Philofopher in turning 
a man into a \vatch fpring, be the moft ration- 
al, feems hard to determine. 

To account for the regularity of our firfl 
thoughts, from motions of animal fpirits, vi- 
brations of nerves, attractions of ideas, or 
from any other unthinking caufe, whether 
mechanical or contingent, feems equally irra- 

If we be not able to diftinguifli the ftrongefl 
marks of thought and defign from the effeds 
of mechanifm or contingency, the confequence 
will be very melancholy : For it mufl neceflarily 
follow, that we have no evidence of thought in 


Of the Train of Thought in the Mind. 69 

any of our fellow men, nay that we have noC H A P, 
evidence of thought or defign in the ftrufture "^ 
and government of the univerfe. If a good ' """^ 
period or fentence was ever produced without 
having had any judgment previoufly employed 
about it, why not an Iliad or Eneid ? They 
differ only in lefs and more ; and we ihould do 
injuftice to the Philofopher of Laputa, in 
laughing at his projeft of making poems by 
the turning of a wheel, if a concurrence of 
unthinking caufes may produce a rational train 
of thought. 

It is, therefore, in itfelf highly probable, to 
fay no more, that whatfoever is regular and 
rational in a train of thought, which prefents 
itfelf fpontaneoufly to a man's fancy, without 
any fludy, is a copy of what had been before 
compofed by his own rational powers, or thofe 
of fome other perfon» 

We certainly judge fo in limilar cafes. Thus, 
in a book 1 find a train of thinking, which has 
the marks of knowledge and judgment. I alk 
how it was produced ? It is printed in a book. 
This does not fatisfy me, becaufe the book has 
no knowledge nor reafon. I am told that a 
printer printed it, and a compofitor fet the 
types. Neither does this fatisfy me. Thefe 
caufes perhaps knew very little of the fubject. 
There muft be a prior caufe of the compofiti- 
on. It was printed from a manufcript. True. 
But the manufcript is as ignorant as the printed 
book. The manufcript was written or didla- 
ted by a man of knowledge and judgment. 
This, and this only, will fatisfy a man of com- 
mon underftanding ; and it appears to him 
extremely ridiculous to believe that fuch a train 
of thinking could originally be produced by 
any caufe that neither reafons nor thinks. 




Whether fuch a train of thinking be printed 
in a book, or printed, lo to fpeak, in his 
mind, and ilTue fpontaneoufly from his fancy, 
it mufl have been compofed with judgment by 
himfelf, or by fome other rational being. 

This, I think, will be confirmed by tracing 
the progrefs of the human fancy as far back as 
we are able. 

We have not the means of knowing how the 
fancy is employed in infants. Their time is 
divided between the employment of their 
fenfes and found fleep : So that there is little 
time left for imagination, and the materials it 
has to work upon are probably very fcanty. 
A few days after they are born, fometimes a 
few hours, we fee them fmile in their fleep. 
But what they fmile at is not eafy to guefs ; 
for they do not fmile at any thing they fee, 
when awake, for fome months after they are 
born. It is likewife common to fee them move 
their lips in fleep, as if they were fucking. 

Thefe things feem to difcover fome working 
of the imagination ; but there is no reafon to 
think that there is any regular train of thought 
in the mind of infants. 

By a regular train of thought, I mean that 
which has a beginning, a middle, and an end, 
an arrangement of its parts, according to 
fome rule, or with fome intention. Thus, 
the conception of a defign, and of the means 
of executing it ; the conception of a whole, 
and the number and order of the parts. Thefe 
are inftances of the mod fmiple trains of 
thought that can be called regular. 

Man has undoubtedly a power (whether we 
call it tafte or judgment, is not of any confe- 
quence in the prefent argument) whereby he 


Of the Train of Thought in the Mind. 71 

diftinguifhes between a compofition, and a^HAP. 
heap of materials ; between a houfe, for in- ^f X-» 
ftance, and a heap of flones ; between a fcn- 
tence and a heap of words ; between a pidure, 
and a heap of colours. It does not appear to 
me that children have any regular trains of 
thought until this power begins to operate. 
Thofe who are bprn fuch idiots as never to 
fhew any figns of this power, fhow as little any 
.iigns of regularity of thought. It feems, there- 
fore, that this power is connecled with all re- 
gular trains of thought, and may be the caufc 
of them. 

Such trains of thought difcover themfelves in 
rhildren about two years of age. They can 
then give attention to the operations of older 
children in making their little houfes, and 
ihips, and other fuch things, in imitation of 
the works of men. They are then capable of 
underflanding a little of language, which fliewj; 
both a regular train of thinking, and fome 
.degree of abftradio.n. I think wc may per- 
ceive a diftiniftion between the faculties of 
children of two or three years of age, and thofe 
of the moft fagacious brutes. They can then 
perceive defign and regularity in the works of 
others, efpecially of older children ; their little 
minds are fired with the difcovery ; they are 
eager .to imitate it, and never at reft till they 
caa exhibit fomething of the fame kind. 

When a child iirft learns by imitation to do 
fomething that requires defign, how does he 
exult ! Pythagoras was not more happy in 
the difcovery of his famous theorem. He 
feems then firft to refiecl upon himfelf, and to 
fwell with felf-cfteera. His eyes fparkle. He 
is impatient ro fliew his performance to all 


72 E S S A Y IV. 

C H A P. about him, and thinks hi mfelf entitled to their 
^^- applaufe. He is applauded by all, and feels 
the fame emotion from this applaufe, as a Ro- 
man Conful did from a triumph. He has now 
a confcioufnefs ot fome worth in himfelf. He 
aflumes a fuperiority over thofe who are not fo 
wife ; and pays refpect to thofe who are wifer 
than himfelf. He attempts fomething elfe, and 
is every clay reaping new laurels. 

As children grow up, they are dehghted 
with tales, with childifh games, with deligns 
and ftratagems : Every thing of this kind 
ftores the fancy v\ith a new regular train of 
thought, which becomes familiar by repetition, 
fo that one part draws the whole after it in the 

The imagination of a child, like the hand of 
a painter, is long employed in copying the 
works of others, before it attempts any inven- 
tion of its own. 

The power of invention is not yet brought 
forth, but it is coming forward, and, like the 
bud of a tree, is ready to burft its integuments, 
when fome accident aids its eruption. 

There is no pov,'cr of the underilanding 
that gives fo much pleafure to the owner as 
that of invention ; whether it be employed in 
mechanics, in fcience, in the conduct of life, 
in poetry, in wit, or in the fine arts. One 
who is confcious of it, acquires thereby a 
worth and importance in his own eye which he 
had not before. He looks upon himfelf as one 
w^ho formerly lived upon the bounty and gratu- 
ity of others, but who has now acquired fome 
property of his own. ■ When this power begins 
to be felt in the young mind, it has the grace 
of novelty added to its other charms, and, 


Of the Train of Thought in the Mind. 73 

like the youngeft child of the family, is caref- CHAP, 
fed beyond all the reft. , ^^'• 

We may be fure, therefore, that as foon as 
children are confcious of this power, they will 
exercife it in fuch ways as are fuited to their 
age, and to the objefts they are employed 
about. This gives rife to innumerable new 
alTociations, and regular trains of thought, 
which make the deeper impreffion upon the 
mind, as they are its exclufive property. 

I am aware that the power of invention is 
diftributed among men more unequally than 
almoft any other. When it is able to produce 
any thing that is interefting to mankind, we 
call it genius ; a talent which is the lot of very 
few. But there is perhaps a lower kind, or 
lower degree of invention that is more com- 
mon. However this may be, it muft be al- 
lowed, that the power of invention in thofe 
who have it, will produce many new regular 
trains of thought ; and thefe being exprelTed in 
works of art, in -writing, or in difcourfe, will 
be copied by others. 

Thus I conceive the minds of children, as 
foon as they have judgment to diftinguifh what 
is regular, orderly, and connected, from a 
mere medley of thought, are furnifhed with 
regular trains of thinking by thefe means. 

Firjl and chiefly, by copying what they fee 
in the works and in the difcourfe of others. 
Man is the moft imitative of all animals ; he 
not only imitates \n\h. intention, and purpofe- 
ly, what he thinks has any grace or beauty, 
but even without intention, he is led by a 
kind of inftincl, which it is difficult to refift, 
into the modes of fpeaking, thinking, and 
acting, which he has been accuftomed to fee 



C H A P. in his early years. The more children fee of 
• what is regular and beautiful in what is pre- 
fented to them, the more ihey are led to ob- 
ferve and to imitate it. 

This is the chief part of their floek, and 
.defcends to them by a kind of tradition from 
thofe who came before them ; and we fhall 
find, that the fancy of mod men is furnifhed 
from thofe they have converfed with, as well 
as their religion, language, and manners. 

Secondly, By the additions or innovations 
that are properly their own, thefe will be grea- 
ter or leCs, in proportion to their fludy and 
invention ; but in the bulk of mankind are not 
very confiderable. 

Every profellion, and every rank in life, 
has a manner of thinking, and turn of fancy 
that is proper to it ; by which it is characterifed 
in comedies and works of humour. The 
bulk of men of the fame nation, of the fame 
rank, and of the fame occupation, are cafl as 
it were in the fame mould. This mould itfelf 
changes gradually, but flowly, by new inven- 
tions, by intercourfe with ftrangers, or by 
other accidents. 

The condition of man requires a longer in- 
fancy and youth than that of x^ther animals ; 
for this reafon among others, that almoft every 
flation in civil fociety requires a multitude of 
regular trains of thought, to be not only ac- 
quired, but to be made fo familiar by frequent 
repetition, as to prefent themfelves fponta- 
neoufly, when there is occafion for them. 

The imagination even of men of good parts 
never ferves them readily but in things where- 
in it has been much exercifed. A Minifler of 
State holds a conference with a foreign Am- 


Of the Train of Thought in the Mind. 75 

baflador, with no greater emotion than a Pro- CHAP 
feffor in a college prelects to his audience. 
The imagination of each prefents to him what 
the occafion requires to be faid, and how. Let 
them change places, and both would find 
thcmfelves at a lofs. 

The habits which the human mind is capa- 
ble of acquiring by exercife are wonderful in 
many inftances ; in none more wonderful, than 
in that verfatility of imagination which a well 
bred man acquires, by being much exercifcd 
in the various fcenes of life. In the morning 
he vifits a friend in afflidion. Here his ima- 
gination brings forth from its ftore every topic 
of confolation ; every thing that is agreeable 
to the laws of friendfhip and fympathy, and 
nothing that is not fo. From thence he drives 
to the Minifler's levee, where imagination 
readily fuggefts what is proper to be faid or 
replied to every man, and in what manner, ac- 
cording to the degree of acquaintance or fami- 
liarity, of rank or dependence, of oppofition 
or occurrence of interefts, of confidence or 
diftruft, that is between them. Nor does all 
this employment hinder him from carrying on 
fome defign with much artifice, and endea- 
vouring to penetrate into the views of others 
through the clofeft difguifes. From the levee 
he goes to the Houfe of Commons, and fpeaks 
upon the affairs of the nation ; from thence to 
a ball or alfembly, and entertains the ladies- 
His imagination puts on the friend, the cour- 
tier, the patriot, the fine gentleman, with more 
eafe than we put off" one fuit and put on ano- 
ther, y y 

This is the effefl of training and exercife. 
For a man of equal parts and knowledge, but 


-,(i ESSAY IV. 

C K A p. unaccuftomed to thofe fcenes of public life, is 
^^'- quite difconcerted when firft brought into 
^^'^'^^ them. His thoughts are put to flight, and he 
cannot rally them. 

There are feats of imagination to be learned 
by application and pratlice, as wonderful as 
the feats of balancers and rope-dancers, and 
often as ufelefs. 

When a man can make a hundred verfes 
{landing on one foot, or play three or four 
games at chefs at the fame time without feeing 
the board, it is probable he hath fpent his life 
in acquiring fuch a feat. However, fuch un- 
ufual pheenomena (hew what habits of imagi- 
nation may be acquired. 

When fuch habits are acquired and perfect- 
ed, they are exercifed without any laborious 
effort ; like the habit of playing upon an in- 
flrument of mufic. There are innumerable 
motions of the fingers upon the flops or keys, 
which mufl be directed in one particular train 
or fucceffion. There is only one arrangement 
of thofe motions that is right, while there are 
ten thoufand that are wrong, and would fpoil 
the mufic. The Mufician thinks not in the 
ieafl of the arrangement of thofe motions ; he 
has a diilind; idea of the tune, and wills to 
play it. The motions of the fingers arrange 
hemfelves, fo as to anfwer his intention. 

In hke manner, when a man fpeaks upon a 
fubject with which he is acquainted, there is a 
certain arrangement of his thoughts and words 
neceifary to make his difcourfe fenfible, per- 
tinent, and grammatical. In every fentence, 
there are more rules of grammar, logic, and 
rhetoric, that may be tranfgreffed, than there 
are words and letters. He fpeaks without 


Of the Train of Thought in the Mind. 77 

thinking of any of thofe rules, and yet obferves^ ^ ^ ^' 
them all, as if they were all in his eye. ' 

This is a habit fo fimilar to that of a player 
on an inftrument, that I think both mufl be got 
in the fame way, that is, by much practice, 
and the power of habit. 

When a man fpeaks well and methodically 
upon a fubjed: without fludy, and with perfed 
eafe, I believe we may take it for granted that 
his thoughts run in a beaten track. There is 
a mould in his mind, which has been formed 
by much practice, or by fludy, for this very 
fubjed, or for fome other fo fmiilar and ana- 
logous, that his difcourfe falls into this mould 
with eafe, and takes its form from it. 

Hitherto we have confidered the operations 
of fancy that are either fpontaneous, or at 
lead require no laborious effort to guide and 
dired: them, and have endeavoured to account 
for that degree of regularity and arrangement 
which is found even in them. The natural 
powers of judgment and invention, the plea- 
sure that always attends the exercife of thofe 
powers, the means we have of improving thcni 
by imitation of others, and the effed of prac- 
tice and habits, feems to me fufficiently to ac- 
count for this phsenomenon, without fuppofmg 
any unaccountable attradions of ideas by 
which they arrange themfelves. 

But we are able to dired our thoughts in a 
certain courfe fo as to perform a deflined talk. 
Every work of art has its model framed in 
the imagination. Here the Iliad of Homer, 
the Republic of Plato, the Principia of New- 
ton, were fabricated. Shall we beUeve, that 
thofe works took the form in which they now 



CHAF.appear of themfelves? That the fentlments, 
^^- the ir/anners, and the pafiions arranged them- 

^""'^'^^ lelves at once in the mind of Homer, fo as to 
form the Iliad? Was there no more effort in. 
the compofition, than there is in teUing a well- 
known tale, or finging a favourite fong ? This 
cannot be believed. 

Granting that fome happy thought firft fug- 
gefted the defign of fmging the wrath of 
Achilles; yet, furely, it was a matter of 
judgment and choice where the narration fliould 
begin, and where it fliould end. 

Granting that the fertility of the Poet's ima- 
gination fuggefl:ed a variety of rich materials; 
was not judgment neceifary to leleft what was 
proper, to reject what was improper, to ar- 
range the materials into a juft compofition, 
and to adapt them to each other, and to the 
defign of the whole? 

No man can beheve that Homer's ideas, 
merely by certain fympathies and antipathies, 
by certain attractions and repulfions inherent 
in their natures, arranged themfelves according 
to the moft perfeft 'rules of Epic peetry; and 
Nevvton's, according to the rules of mathe- 
matical compofition. 

I fliould fooner believe that the Poet, after 
he invoked his Mufe, did nothing at all but 
Men to the fong of the goddefs. Poets indeed, 
and ether artifts, mufl make their works ap- 
pear natural; but nature is the perfection of 
art, and there can be no jufl; imitation of na- 
ture without art : When the building is finiflied, 
the rubbifh, the fcaffolds, the tools and en- 
gines, are carried out of fight; but we know 
it could not have been reared without them. 


Of the Train of Thought in the Mind. 79 

The train of thinking, therefore, is capable C HAP. 
of being guided and direded, much in the 
fame manner as the horfe we ride. The horfe 
has his flrength, his agiUty, and his mettle in 
himfelf; he has been taught certain move- 
ments, and many ufeful habits that make him 
more fubfervient to our purpofes, and obedient 
to our will; but to accompHih a journey, he 
muft be directed by the rider. 

In like manner fancy has its original powers, 
which are very different in different perfons ; 
it has likewife more regular motions, to which 
it has been trained by a long courfe of difci- 
pline and exercife ; and by which it may extem- 
pore, and without much effort, produce things 
that have a confiderable degree of beauty, re- 
gularity, and defign. 

But the mofl perfed works of defign are ne- 
ver extemporary. Our firfl thoughts are re- 
viewed; we place them at a proper diftance; 
examine every part, and take a complex view 
of the whole: By our critical faculties, wc 
perceive this part to be redundant, that defici- 
ent; here is a want of nerves, there a want of 
delicacy; this is obfcure, that too diffufe: 
Things are marlhalled anew, according to a 
fecond and more deliberate judgment; what 
was deficient, is fupplied; what was diflocated, 
is put in joint; redundances are lopped off, 
and the whole polilhed. 

Though Poets of all artifts make the higheft 
claim to infpiration, yet if we believe Horace, 
a competent judge, no production in that art 
can have merit, which has not coft fuch labour 
as this in the birth. 






Vos 0/ 
Pofupiiius fanguis^ cartneji reprehendite quod non 
Malta dies, et multa litura coercuit, atque 
Perfedum decies non cajiigavit ad unguem. 

The conclufion I would draw from all that 
has been fald upon this fubjecl is. That every 
thing that is regular in that- train of thought^ 
which we call fancy or imagination, from the 
little defigns and reveries of children, to the 
grandeft productions of human genius, was 
originally the offspring of judgment or tafte, 
applied with fome effort greater or lefs. What 
one perfon compofed with art and judgment, 
is imitated by another with great eafe. What 
a man himfelf at firfl compofed with pains, 
becomes by habit fo familiar, as to offer itfelf 
fpontaneoufly to his fancy afterwards: But no- 
thing that is regular, was ever at firft conceived, 
without defign, attention, and care. 

I fhall now make a few refleftions upon a 
theory which has been applied to account for 
this fucceffive train of thought in the mind. 
It was hinted by Mr. Hobbes, but has drawn 
more attention fmce it was diltindly explained 
by Mr. Hume. 

That author thinks that the train of thought 
in the mind is owing to a kind of attraction 
which ideas have for other ideas that bear cer- 
taiA relations to them. He thinks the complex 
ideas, which are the common fubjefts of our 
thoughts and reafoning, are owing to the fame 
caufe. The relations which produce this at- 
traction of ideas, he thinks, are thefe three 
only, to wit, caufation, contiguity in time or 
place, and fimilitude. He afferts that thefe 
are the only general principles that unite ideas. 
And having, in another place, occafion to 


Of the Train of Thought /« the Mind. ' 8 r 

take notice of contrariety as a principle of con-C HAP; 
neftion among ideas, in order to reconcile this ^^• 
to his fyflem, he tells us gravely, that contra- 
riety may perhaps be confidered as a mixture 
of caufation and refemblance. That ideas 
which have any of thefe three relations do mu- 
tually attra£l each other, fo that one of them, 
being prefented to the fancy, the other is drawn 
along with it, this he feems to think an origi- 
nal property of the mind, or rather of the 
ideas, and therefore inexplicable. 

Firji^ I obferve with regard to this theory, 
that although it is true that the thought of any 
objeft is apt to lead us to the thought of its 
caufe or effeft, of things contiguous to it in 
time or place, or of things refembling it, yet 
this enumeration of the relations of things 
which are apt to lead us from one objeft to 
another, is very inaccurate. 

The enumeration is too large upon his own 
principles ; but it is by far too fcanty in reality. 
Caufation, according to his philofophy, implies 
nothing more than a conftant conjunction ob- 
ferved between the caufe and the efFeft, and 
therefore contiguity mud include caufation, 
and his three principles of attraction are re- 
duced to two. 

But when we take all the three, the enume- 
ration is in reality very incomplete. Every 
relation of things has a tendency, more or lefs, 
to lead the thought, in a thinking mind, from 
one to the other; and not only every relation, 
but every kind of contrariety and oppolition. 
What Mr. Hume fays, that contrariety may 
perhaps be confidered as a mixture " of caufa- 
tion and refemblance," I can as little compre- 
VoL. 11. G hend 

82 £ S S A Y IV. 

C H A P.hend as if he had faid that figure may perhaps 
^^' be confidered as a mixture of colour and 

^-/^^^ found. 

Our thoughts pafs eafily from the end to the 
means; from any truth to the evidence on 
which it is founded, the confequences that may 
be drawn from it, or the ufe that may be made 
of it. From a part we are eafily led to think 
of the whole, from a fubject to its quaHties, or 
from things related to the relation. Such tran- 
fitions in thinking mud have been made thou* 
fands of times by every man who thinks and 
reafons, and thereby become, as it were, beat- 
en tracks for the imagination. 

Not only the relations of objects to each 
other influence our train of thinking, but the 
relation they bear to the prefent temper and 
difpofition of the mind; their relation to the 
habits we have acquired, whether moral or 
intelle<5Lual; to the company we have kept, and 
to the bufmefs in which we have been chiefly 
employed. The fame event ^ill fuggefl very 
different reflections to different perfons, and 
to the fame perfon at different times, according 
as he is in good or bad humour, as he is live- 
ly or dull, angry or pleafed, melancholy or 

Lord Kaimes, in his Elements of Criticifm, 
and Dr. Gerard in his Efllay on Genius, 
have given a much fuller and jufter enumera- 
tion of the caufes that influence our train of 
thinking, and I have nothing to add to what 
they have faid on this fubject. 

Secondly, Let us confider how far this attrac- 
tion of ideas mufl: be refolved into original 
qualities of human nature. 

I be- 

Of the Train of Thought in the Mind. 


I believe the original principles of the mind,C HAP. 
of which we can give no account, but that ^^• 
fuch is our conflitution, are more in number ~ ' 
than is commonly thought. But we ought not 
to multiply them without neceffity. 

That trains of thinking, which by frequent 
repetition have become familiar, fliould fpon- 
taneoufly offer themfelves to our fancy, feems 
to require no other original quality but the 
power of habit. 

In all rational thinking, and in all rational 
difcourfe, whether ferious or iacetious, the 
thought muft have fome relation to what went 
before. Every man, therefore, from the dawn 
of reafon, mud have been accuftomed to a 
train of related objeds. Thefe pleafe the un- 
derflanding, and by cuftom become like beat- 
en tracks which invite the traveller. 

As far as it is in our power to give a direction 
to our thoughts, which it is undoubtedly in a 
great degree, they will be directed by the ac- 
tive principles common to men, by our appe- 
tites, our paffions, our affections, our reafon, 
and confcience. And that the trains of think- 
ing in our minds are chiefly governed by thefe, 
according as one or another prevails at the time, 
every man will find in his experience. 

If the mind is at any time vacant from every 
paiiion and defire, there are ftill fome objects 
that are more acceptable to us than others. 
The facetious man is pleafed with furprifmg 
fimilitudes or contrails; the Philofopher with 
the relations of things that are fubfcrvient to 
reafoning; the merchant with what tends to 
pront ; and the Politician with what may mend 
the llate. 

G 2 A good 

84 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP. A good writer of comedy or romance can 
^^- feign a train of thinking for any of the perfons 
of his fable, which appears very natural, and 
is approved by the beil judges. Now, what 
is it that entitles fuch a fiftion to approbation? 
Is it that the author has given a nice attention 
to the relations of caufation, contiguity, and 
fimilitude in the ideas ? This furely is the lead 
part of its merit. But the chief part confifts 
in this, that it correfponds perfectly with the 
general char after, the rank, the habits, the 
prefent fituation and paffions of the perfon. If 
this be a jufl way of judging in criticifm, it 
follows neceffarily, that the circumftances lad 
mentioned have the chief influence in fuggefl- 
ing our trains of thought. 

It cannot be denied, that the flate of the 
body has an influence upon our imagination, 
according as a man is fober or drunk, as he is 
fatigued or refrefhed. Crudities and indigeflii- 
Qn are faid to give uneafy dreams, and have 
probably a like effed: upon the waking thoughts. 
Opium gives to fome perfons pleafmg dreams, 
and pleaiing imaginations when awake, and to 
others fuch as are horrible and difl:refling, 

Thefe influences of the body upon the mind 
can only be known by experience, and I be- 
lieve we can give no account of them. 

Nor can we, perhaps, give any reafon why 
we mufl think without ceafing while we are 
awake. I believe we are likcwife originally 
difpofed, in imagination, to pafs from any one 
objeft of thought to others that are contiguous 
to it in time or place. This, I think, may be 
obferved in brutes and in idiots, as well as in 
children, before any habit can be acquired that 
might account for it. The fight of an object 


Of the Train 0/ Thought m the Mind. ^s 

IS apt to fugged to the imagination what hasC HAP. 
been feen or felt in conjunftion with it, even ^^• 
when the memory of that conjunftion is gone. 

Such conjunctions of things influence not 
only the imagination, but the belief and the 
paffions, efpecially in children and in brutes ; 
and perhaps all that we call memory in brutes 
is fomething of this kind. 

They ex{^e£t events in the fame order and 
fucceflion in which they happened before ; and 
by. this expeftation, their adions and paffions^ 
as well as their thoughts, are regulated. A 
horfe takes fright at the place where fome objett 
frighted him before. We are apt to conclude 
from this, that he remembers the former acci- 
dent. But perhaps there is only an affociation 
formed in his mind between the place and the 
paflion of fear, without any difl:in£t remem- 

Mr. Locke has given us a very good chap- 
ter upon the aflbciation of ideas ; and by the 
examples he has given to illuflrate this dodrine, 
I think it appears that very ftrong affociations 
may be formed at once ; not of ideas to ideas 
only, but of ideas to paflions and emotions ; 
and that ftrong aifociations are never formed 
at once, but when accompanied by fome ftrong 
paffion or emotion. I believe this muft be re- 
folved into the conftitution of our nature. 

Mr. Hume's opinion, that the complex 
ideas, which are the common objefts of dif- 
courfe and reafoning, are formed by thofe ori- 
ginal attractions of ideas, to which he afcribes 
the train of thoughts in the mind, will come 
under confideration in another place. 

To put an end to our remarks upon this theo- 
ry of Mr. Hume, I think he has real merit in 


86 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP, bringing this curious fubjcd under the view of 
• Philolbphers, and carrying it a certain length. 
But I fee nothing in this theory that fliould 
hinder us to conclude, that every thing in the 
trains of our thought, which bears the marks 
of judgment and reafon, has been the product 
of judgment and reafon previoufly exercifedj 
either by the perfon himfelf, at that or fome 
former time, or by fome other perfon. The 
attradion of ideas will be the fame in a man's 
fccond thoughts upon any fubjecl as in his firft. 
Or if fome change in his circumflances, or in 
the objefts about him, fhould make any change 
in the attractions of his ideas, it is an equal 
chance whether the fecond be better than the 
firfl, or whether they be worfe. But it is cer- 
tain that every man of judgment and tafte will, 
upon a review, correct that train of thought 
which firfl prefented itfel£ If the attractions 
of ideas are the fole caufes of the regular ar- 
rangement^of thought in the fancy, there is no 
ufe for judgment or tafte in any compofition, 
nor indeed any room for their operation. 

There are other reflections of a more practi- 
cal nature, and of higher importance, to 
which this fubjeCt leads. 

I believe it will be allowed by every man, 
that our happinefs or mifery in life, that our 
improvement in any art or fcience which we 
profefs, and that our improvement in real vir- 
tue and goodnefs, depend in a very great de- 
greee on the train of thinking, that occupies 
the mind both in our vacant and in our more 
ferious hours. As far therefore as the directi- 
on of our thoughts is in our power, (and that 
it is fo in a great meafure, cannot be doubted) 
it is of the lafl importance to give them that 


Of the Train o/'Thought in the Mind. 87 

diredlon which is moft fubfervient to thofe^^AP. 
valuable purpofes. 

What employment can he have worthy of a 
man, whofe imagination is occupied only about 
things low and bafe, and grovels in a narrow 
field of mean unanimating and uninterefling 
objects, infenfible to thofe finer and more de- 
hcate fentiments, and blind to thofe more en- 
larged and nobler views which elevate the foul, 
and make it confcious of its dignity. 

How different from him, whofe imagination, 
Hke an eagle in her flight, takes a wide prof- 
pe£l, and obferves whatever it prefents, that 
is new or beautiful, grand or important, whofe 
rapid wing varies the fcene every moment, 
carrying him fometimes through the fairy re- 
gions of wit and fancy, fometimes through the 
more regular and fober walks of fcience and 

The various objefts which he furveys, ac- 
cording to their different degrees of beauty and 
dignity, raife in him the lively and agreeable 
emotions of tafte. Illuftrious human charac- 
ters, as they pafs in review, clothed with their 
moral qualities, touch his heart ftill more deep- 
ly. They not only awaken the fenfe of beauty, 
but excite the fentiment of approbation, and 
kindle the glow of virtue. 

While he views what is truly great and glo- 
rious in human conduct, his foul catches the 
divine flame, and burns with defire to emulate 
what it admires. 

The human imagination is an ample thea- 
tre, upon which every thing in human Hfe, 
good or bad, great or mean, laudable or 
bdfe, is aded. 


88 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP. In children, and in fome frivolous minds, 
^ it is a mere toy-fhop. And in fome, who ex- 

^^^^^^^^ ercife their memory without their judgment, 
its furniture is m>ade up of old fcraps of know- 
ledge, that are thread-bare and worn-out. 

In fome, this theatre is often occupied by 
ghaflly fuperfliticn, with all her train of Gor- 
gojis, and Hydras, and Chimeras dire. Some- 
times it is haunted with all the infernal de- 
mons, and made the forge of plots, and ra- 
pine, and murder. Here every thing that is 
black and deteftable is firft contrived, and a 
thoufand wicked deligns conceived that are 
never executed. Here, too, the Furies a£t 
their part, taking a fevere though fecret ven- 
geance upon the felf-condemned criminal. 

How happy is that mind, in which the light 
of real knowledge difpels the phantoms of fu- 
perflition : In which the belief and reverence 
of a perfect all-governing Mind calls out all 
fear but the fear of afting wrong : In which 
ferenity and cheerfulnefs, innocence, huma- 
nity, and candour, guard the imagination 
againft the entrance of every unhallowed intru- 
der, and invite more amiable and worthier 
guefts to dwell ! 

There fliall the Mufes, the Graces, and the 
Virtues, fix their abode ; for every thing that 
is great and worthy in human conduQ: mull 
have been conceived in ihe imagination before 
it was brought into ad. And many great and 
good defigns have been formed there, which, 
for want of power and opportunity, have pro- 
ved abortive. 

The man, whofe imagination is occupied 
by thefe guefts, muft be wifej he muft be 
good ; and he muft be happy. 



E S S A Y V. 


Of General Words* 

THE words we ufe in language are either 
general words, or proper names. Pro- 
per names are intended to fignify one individual 
only. Such are the names of men, kingdoms, 
provinces, cities, rivers, and of every other crea- 
ture of God, or work of man, which we chufe 
to diftinguifh from all others of the kind, by a 
name appropriated to it. All the other words of 
language are general words, not appropriated 
to fignify any one individual thing, but equally 
related to many. 

Under general words therefore, I compre- 
hend not only thofe which Logicians call ge- 
neral terms, that is, fuch general words as 
may make the fubjefl: or the predicate of a pro- 
pofition, but likewife their auxiharies or ac- 
ceffories, as the learned Mr. Harris calls 
them ; fuch as prepofitions, conjundions, ar- 
ticles, which are all general words, though 
they cannot properly be called general terms. 

In every language, rude or polifhed, gene- 
ral words make the greatefl part, and proper 
names the leaft. Grammarians have reduced 
all words to eight or nine clafles, which are 


90 E S S A Y V. 

C H A F.ciillcd parts of fpeech. Of thefe there is only 
*• one, to wit, that of ?2om2s, wherein proper 
names are found. All pronouns, verbs^ parti- 
ticiples, adverbs, articles, prcpofitions, conjunc- 
tions, and inter jeclions, are general words. Of 
nouns, all adjehi'ves are general words, and the 
greater part q{ Jubfianti'ves. Every fubftantive 
that has a plural number, is a general word ; 
for no proper name can have a plural number, 
becaufe it fignifies only one individual. In all 
the fifteen books of Euclid's Elements, there 
is not one v/ord that is not general ; and the 
fame may be faid of many large volumes. 

At the fame time it muil be acknowledged, 
that all the obje£ls we perceive are individuals. 
Every object of fenfe, of memory, or of con- 
fcioufnefs, is an individual objecl:. All the 
good things we enjoy or defire, and all the 
evils we feel or fear, muft come from individu- 
als ; and I think we may venture to fay, that 
every creature which God has made in the 
heavens above, or in the earth beneath, or in 
the waters under the earth, is an individual. 

How comes it to pafs then, that in all lan- 
guages general words make the greatefl part of 
the language, and proper names but a very 
fmall and inconfiderable part of it ? 

This feeming ftrange phasnomenon may, I 
think, be eafily accounted for by the following 

Firjl, Though there be a few individuals 
that are obvious to the notice of all men, and 
therefore have proper names in all languages ; 
fuch as the fun and moon, the earth and fea ; 
yet the greateft part of the things to which we 
think fit to give proper names are local ; known 
perhaps to a village or to a neighbourhood, 



but unknown to the greater part of thofe who C H A PI 
ipeak the fame language, and to all the reft of ^- . 
mankind. The names of fiich things being 
confined to a corner, and liaving no names 
anfwering to them in other languages, are not 
accounted a part of the language, any more 
than the cuftoms of a particular hamlet are ac- 
counted part of the lav/ of the nation. 

For this reafon, there are but few proper 
names that belong to a language. It is next 
to be confidered why there mull be many ge- 
neral words in every language. 

Secondly, It may be obferved, that every in- 
dividual objecl that falls within our view has 
various attributes ; and it is by them that it 
becomes ufeful or hurtful to us : We know 
not the effence of any individual objed: ; all 
the knowledge we can attain of it, is t\it 
knowledge of its attributes ; its quantity, its 
various qualities, its various relations to other 
things, its place, its fituation, anc{ motionv'?. 
It is by fuch attributes of things only that we 
can communicate our knowledge of them -to 
others : By their attributes, our hopes or fears 
from them are regulated ; and it is only by 
attention to their attributes that we can make 
them fubfervient to our ends ; and therefore 
we give names to fuch attributes. 

Now all attributes muft from their nature be 
expreffed by general words, and are fo exprelT" 
cd in all languages. In the ancient philofo- 
phy, attributes in general v/ere called by two 
names which exprefs their nature. They were 
called univerfah, becaufe they might belong- 
equally to many individuals, and are not con- 
fined to one : They were alfo called predica- 
bles, becaufe whatever is predicated, that is, 


92 E S S A Y V. 

C H A P. affirmed or denied of one fubjed, may be, of 
more, and therefore is an univerfal, and ex- 
^'-^'^'^''^ prefl'ed by a general word. A predicable there- 
fore fignifies the fame thing as an attribute, 
with this difference only, that the firft is La- 
tin, the lafl: Englifh. The attributes we find 
either in the creatures of God, or in the works 
of men, are common to many individuals : 
We either find it to be fo, or prefume it may 
be fo, and give them the fame name in every 
fubjed to which they belong. 

There are not only attributes belonging to 
individual fubjeds, but there are likewife at- 
tributes of attributes, which may be called fe- 
condary attributes. Moft attributes are capa- 
ble of different degrees, and different modifi- 
cations, which mufl be expreffed by general 

Thus it is an attribute of many bodies to be 
moved ; but motion may be in an endlefs va- 
riety of direftions. It may be quick or flow, 
redilineal or curvilineal ; it may be equable, 
or accelerated, or retarded. 

As ail attributes, therefore, whether pri- 
mary or fecondary, are expreffed by general 
words, it follows, that in every proportion 
we exprefs in language, what is affirmed or 
denied of the fubjett of the propofition muft 
be expreiTed by general words : And that the 
fubjed: of the propofition may often be a ge- 
neral word, will appear from the next obfer- 

Thirdly^ The fame faculties by which we 
diftinguiih the different attributes belonging to 
the fame fubjed, and give names to them, en- 
able us iikewife to obferve, that many fubjefts 
agree in certain attributes, while they differ in 



others. By this means we are enabled to re-C HAP. 
duce individuals which are infinite, to a limi- ^' ^ 
ted number of clafl'es, which are called kinds 
and forts ; and in the fcholaftic language, 
genera and /pedes. 

Obferving many individuals to agree in cer- 
tain attributes, we refer them all to one clafs, 
and give a name to the clafs : This name com- 
prehends in its fignification not one attribute 
only, but all the attributes which diftinguifh 
that clafs ; and by affirming this name of any 
individual, we affirm it to have all the attri- 
butes which characterize the clafs : Thus 
men, dogs, horfes, elephants, are fo many 
different claffes of animals. In like manner 
we marfhal other fubflances, vegetable and in- 
animate, into claffes. 

Nor is it only fubflances that we thus form 
into claffes. We do the fame with regard to 
qualities, relations, aftions, affedions, paffi- 
ons, and all other things. 

When a clafs is very large, it is divided in- 
to Subordinate claffes in the fame manner. The 
higher clafs is called a ge?ii{s or kind ; the low- 
er a [pedes or fort of the higher : Sometimes a 
fpecies is ftill fubdivided into fubordinate fpe- 
cies ; and this fubdivifion is carried on as far 
as is found convenient for the purpofe of lan- 
guage, or for the improvement of knowledge. 
In this diflribution of things into genera and 
/pedes ^ it is evident that the name of the fpe- 
cies comprehends more attributes than the 
name of the genus. The fpecies comprehends 
all that is in the genus, and thofe attributes 
likewife which diitinguiffi that fpecies from 
others belonging to the fame genus ; and the 
more fubdivifions we make, the names of the 


•^vl^ =■ 

94 ESSAY V. 

CHAP, lower become ftlll the more comprehcnfive in 
^^^ their fignification, but the lefs extenfive in 
their application to individuals. 

Hence it is an axiom in logic, that the more 
extenfive any general term is, it is the lefs 
comprehenfive ; and on the contrary, the more 
comprehenfive, the lefs extenfive : Thus, in 
the following feries of fubordinate general 
terms, animal, man. Frenchman, Parifian, 
every fubfequent term comprehends in its fig- 
nification all that is in the preceding, and 
fomething more ; and every antecedent term 
extends to more individuals than the fubfe- 

Such divlfions and fubdivifions of things into 
genera and fpecies with general names, are not 
confined to the learned andpolifhed languages ; 
they are found in thofe of the rudeft tribes of 
mankind : From which we learn, that the in- 
vention and the ufe of general words, both to 
fignify the attributes of things, and to fignify 
the genera and fpecies of things, is not a fubtile 
invention of Philofophcrs, but an operation 
which all men perform by the light of common 
fenfe. Philofophcrs may fpeculate about this 
operation, and reduce it to canons and apho- 
rlfms ; but men of common underftanding, 
without knowing any thing of the philofophy 
of it, can put it in practice ; in like manner as 
they can fee objects, and make good ufe of 
their eyes, although they know nothing of the 
flruclure of the eye, or of the theory of vifion. 

Every genus, and every fpecies of things, 
may be either the fubject or the predicate of a 
propofition, nay of innumerable propofitions ; 
for every attribute common to the genus or 




fpecies may be affirmed of It ; and the genus C H A P. 
may be affirmed of every fpecies, and both ge- ^• 
nus and fpecies of every individual to which ^"^"^""^ 
k extends. 

Thus of man it may be affirmed, that he is 
an animal made up of body and mind ; that 
he is of few days, and full of trouble ; that he 
is capable of various improvements in arts, in 
knowledge, and in virtue. In a word, every 
thing common to the fpecies may be affirmed 
of man ; and of all fuch propofitions, which 
are innumerable, man is the fubjecl. 

Again, of every nation and tribe, and of 
every individual of the human race that is, or 
was, or fhall be, it may be affirmed that they 
are men. In all fuch propofitions, which are 
innumerable, man is the predicate of the pro- 

We obferved above an extenfion and a 
comprehenfion in general terms ; and that in 
any fubdivifion of things the name of the low- 
eft fpecies is moft comprehenhve, and that of 
the higheft genus moft extenfive. I would 
now obferve, that, by means of fuch general 
terms, there is aho an extenfion and compre- 
henfion of propofitions, which is one of the 
nobleft powers of language, and fits it for ex- 
preffing, with great eafe and expedition, the 
higheil attainments in knowledge, of which 
the human underflanding is capable. 

When the predicate is a genus or a Jpecies, 
the propofition is more or lefs comprehenfive, 
according as the predicate is. Thus, w^hen I 
•fay that this feal is gold, by this fmgle propor- 
tion, I affirm of it all the properties which that 
metal is known to have. When I fay of any 


g6 ESSAY V. 

CHAP, man that he is a Mathematician, this appella- 
^- tion comprehends all the attributes that belong 

^^''^'^^to him as an animal, as a man, and as one 
who has fludied mathematics. When I fay 
that the orbit of the planet Mercury is an el- 
lipfis, I thereby affirm of that orbit all the pro- 
perties which Apollonius and other Geome- 
tricians have difcovered, or may difcover, of 
that fpecies of figure. 

Again, when the fubjeft of a propofition Is 
a ge7ius or a /pedes, the propofition is more or 
lefs extenfive, according as the fubjecl is. 
Thus when I am taught, that the three angles 
of a plane triangle are equal to two right an- 
gles, this properly extends to every fpecies of 
plane triangle, and to every individual plane 
triangle that did, or does, or can exift. 

It is by means of fuch extenfive and com- 
prehenfive propofitions that human knowledge 
is condenfed, as it were, into a fize adapted 
to the capacity of the human mind, with great 
addition to its beauty, and without any dimi- 
nution of its diftinftnefs and perfpicuity. 

General propofitions in fcience may be com- 
pared to the feed of a plant, which, according 
to fome Philofophers, has not only the whole 
future plant inclofed within it, but the feeds of 
that plant, and the plants that Ihall fpring from 
them through all future generations. 

But the fimilitude falls fliort in this refpe£l, 
that time and accidents, not in our power, 
mufl concur to difclofe the contents of the 
feed, and bring them into our view ; whereas 
the contents of a general propofition may be 
brought forth, ripened, and expofed to view 
at our pleafure, and in an inflant. 



Thus the wifdom of ages, and the moft fub- CHAP 
li!iic theorems of fdence, may be laid up, ^• 
like an Iliad in. a nut-fhell, and tranfmitted to * 
fu'ure generations, and this noble purpofe of 
language can only be accomplifhed, by means 
of general words annexed to the divifions and 
fubdivifions of things. 

What has been faid in this chapter, I think, 
is fufficient to fhew, that there can be no lan- 
guage, not fo much as a fmgle propofition, 
without general words ; that they muft make 
the greatefl part of every language, and that 
it is by them only that language is fitted to 
exprefs, with wonderful eafe and expedition, 
all the treafures of human wifdom and know- 


Of general Conceptions. 

A S general words are fo neceflary in lan- 
ji\_ guage, it is natural to conclude that 
there mufl be general conceptions, of which 
they are the figns. 

Words are empty founds when they do not 
lignify the thoughts of the fpeaker ; and it is 
only from their fignification rhat they are de- 
nominated general. Every word that is fpo- 
ken, confidered merely as a found, is an in- 
dividual found. And it can only be called a 
general word, becaufe that which it fignifies 
is general. Now, that which it fignifies, is 
conceived by the mind both of the fpeaker and 
hearer, if the word have a diftincl meaning, 
and be diflinclly underftood. It is therefore 

Vol. II. H impofhble 

98 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP, impofiible that words can have a general fig- 
^^_J|^, nification, unlefs there be conceptions in the 
mind of the fpeaker, and of the hearer, of 
things that are general. It is to fuch that I 
give the name of general conceptions : And it 
ought to be obferved, that they take this deno- 
mination, not from the acl of the mind in 
conceiving, which is an individual acl, but 
from the object, or thing conceived, which is 

We are therefore here to confider whether 
we have fuch general conceptions, and how 
they are formed. 

To begin with the conceptions expreffed by 
general terms, that is, by fuch general words 
as may be the fubject or the predicate of a pro- 
pofition. They are either attributes of things, 
or they are genera or fpecies of things. 

It is evident, with refpect to all the indivi-- 
duals we are acquainted with, that we have a 
more clear and diflintt conception of their at- 
tributes, than of the fubject to which thofe at- 
tributes belong. 

Take, for inftance, any individual body wc 
have accefs to know, what conception do we 
form of it ? Every man may know this from 
his confcioufnefs. He will find that he con- 
ceives it as a thing that has length, breadth, 
and thicknefs, fach a figure, and fuch a colour; 
that it is hard, or folt, or fluid ; that it has 
fuch qualities, and is fit for fuch purpofes. If 
it is a vegetable, he may know where it grew, 
what is the form of its leaves, and flower, and 
feed. If an animal, what are its natural in- 
ftincts, its manner of life, and of rearing its 
young : Of thefe attributes belonging to this 
individual, and numberlefs others, he may 



furely have a difhinct conception ; and he willC HAP. 
find words in language by which he can clearly "• 
and diftindlly exprefs each of them. 

If we confider, in like manner, the concep- 
tion we form of any individual perfon of our 
acquaintance, we fhall find it to be made up of 
various attributes, which we afcribe to him ; 
fuch as, that he is the fon of fuch a man, the 
brother of fuch another, that he has fuch an 
employment or office, has fuch a fortune, that 
he is tall or Ihort, well or ill made, comely or 
ill favoured, young or old, married or unmar- 
ried ; to this we may add, his temper, his cha- 
racter, his abilities, and perhaps fome anec- 
dotes of his hifliory. 

Such is the conception we form of individual 
perfons of our acquaintance. By fuch attri- 
butes, we defcribe them to thofe who know them 
not ; and by fuch attributes Hiftorians give us 
a conception of the perfonages of former times. 
' Nor is it poffible to do it in any other way. 

All the diflinft knowledge we have or can 
attain of any individual, is the knowledge of 
its attributes : For we know not the effence of 
any individual. This feems to be beyond the 
reach of the human faculties. 

Now, every attribute is what the ancients 
called an univerfaL It is, or may be, common 
to various individuals. There is no attribute • 
belonging to any creature of God which may 
not belong to others ; and, on this account, 
attributes, in all languages, are exprelfed by 
general words. 

It appears likewife, from every man's expe- 
rience, that he may have as clear and diftindl 
a conception of fuch attributes as we have 
H 2 named. 



named, and of innumerable others, as he can 
have of any individual to which they belong. 

Indeed the attributes of individuals is all 
that we diftindly conceive about them. It is 
true, we conceive a fubjeft to which the attri- 
butes belong ; but of this fubjett, when its at- 
tributes are fet afide, we have but an obfcure 
and relative conception, whether it be body or 

This was before obferved with regard to bo- 
dies, Effay II. chap. 19. to which we refer, 
and it is no lefs evident with regard to minds. 
What is it we call a mind? It is a thinking, 
intelligent, active being. Granting that think- 
ing, intelligence, and aftivity, are attributes 
of mind, I want to know what the thing or be- 
ing is to which thefe attributes belong? To this 
queftion I can find no Satisfying anfwer. The 
attributes of mind, and particularly its opera- 
tions, we know clearly ; but of the thing itfelf 
we have only an obfcure notion. 

Nature teaches us, that thinking and reafon- 
ing are attributes, which cannot exifl without 
a fubjed; but of that fubjeft I beheve the beft 
notion we can form implies little more than 
that it is the fubject of fuch attributes. 

Whether other created beings may have the 
knowledge of the real eifence of created things, 
fo as to be able to deduce their attributes from 
their effence and conftitution, or whether this 
be the prerogative of him who made them, 
we cannot tell; but it is a knowledge which 
feems to be quite beyond the reach of the hu- 
man faculties. 

We know the effence of a triangle, and from 
that effence can deduce its properties. It is an 
univerfal, and might have been conceived by 



the human mind, though no individual triangle CHAP, 
had ever exifled. It has only w^hat Mr. Locke ^^• 
calls a nominal effence, which is exprefled in 
its definition. But every thing that exifts has 
a real eflence, which is above our comprehen- 
fion; and therefore we cannot deduce its pro- 
perties or attributes from its nature, as we do 
in the triangle. We mufh take a contrary road 
in the knowledge of God's works, and fatisfy 
ourfelves with their attributes as fads, and with 
the general convi6tion that there is a fubjeft to 
which thofe attributes belong. 

Enough, I think, has been faid, to fhow, 
not only that we may have clear and diftindt 
conceptions of attributes, but that they are the 
only things, with regard to individuals, of 
which we have a clear and diftin£l conception. 

The other clafs of general terms are thofe 
that fignify the genera and /pedes into which 
we divide and fubdivide things. And if we 
be able to form diflindt conceptions of attri- 
butes, it cannot furely be denied that we may 
have diflincl conceptions of genera znd /pedes ; 
becaufe they are only colledions of attributes 
which we conceive to exift in a fubjed, and to 
which we give a general name. If the attri- 
butes comprehended under that general name 
be diftindly conceived, the thing meant by 
the name mufl be diftindly conceived. And 
the name may juflly be attributed to every in- 
dividual which has thofe attributes. 

Thus, I conceive diftinftly what it is to have 
wings, to be covered with feathers, to lay eggs. 
Suppofe then that we give the name of bird to 
every animal that has thefe three attributes. 
Here undoubtedly my conception of a bird is 
as diftind: as any notion of the attributes which 




CHAP, are common to this fpecies : And if this be adr 
^^- mitted to be the definition of a bird, there is 
^^ "" ^ nothing I conceive more diftindly. If I had 
never feen a bird, and can but be made to un- 
derftand the definition, I can eafily apply it to 
every individual of the fpecies, without dan- 
ger of miftake. 

When things are divided and fubdivided by 
men of fcience, and names given to the genera 
and fpecies, thofe names are defined. Thus, 
the genera and fpecies of plants, and^of other 
natural bodies, are accurately defined by the 
writers in the various branches of natural hif- 
tory; fo that, to all future generations, the 
definition will convey a diftinft notion of the 
genus or fpecies defined. 

There are, without doubt, many words fig- 
nifying genera and fpecies of things, which 
have a meaning fomevvhat vague and indiftinft; 
fo that thofe who fpeak the fame language do 
not always ufe them in the fame fenfe. But 
if we attend to the caufe of, this indiftindnefs, 
we fhall find, that it is not owing to their 
being general terms, but to this, that there is 
no definition of them that has authority. 
Their meaning, therefore, has not been learn- 
ed by a definition, but by a kind of induftion, 
by obferving to what individuals they are ap- 
plied by thofe who underftand the language. 
We learn by habit to ufe them as we fee others 
do, even when we have not a precife meaning 
annexed to them. A man may know, that to 
certain individuals they may be applied with 
propriety; but whether they can be applied to 
certain other individuals, he may be uncertain, 
cither from want of good authorities, or from 



having contrary authorities, which leave him^ HAP. 
in doubt. vJ-J^ 

Thus, a man may know, that when he ap- 
phes the name of bead to a Hon or a tyger, 
and the name of bird to an eagle or a turkey, 
he fpeaks properly. But whether a bat be a 
bird or a beaft, he may be uncertain. If there 
was any accurate definition of a beaft and of a 
bird, that was of fufficient authority, he could 
be at no lofs. 

It is faid to have been fometimes a matter of 
difpute, with regard to a monftrous birth of a 
woman, whether it was a man or not. Al- 
though this may be in reality a queftioYi about 
the meaning of a word, it may be of import- 
ance, on account of the privileges which laws 
have annexed to the human character. To 
make fuch laws perfeftly precife, the definition 
of* a man would be neceflary, which 1 believe 
Legiilators have feldom or never thought fit to 
give. It is, indeed, very difficult to fix a defi- 
nition of fo common a word, and the cafes 
wherein it would be of any ufe fo rarely occur, 
that perhaps it may be better, when they do 
occur, to leave them to the determination of a 
judge or of a jury, than to give a definition, 
which might be attended with unforefeen con- 

A genius or fpecies, being a colle£lion of at- 
tributes, conceived to exift in one fubjeft, a 
definition is the only way to prevent any addi- 
tion or diminuation of its ingredients in the 
conception of different perfons; and when 
there is no definition that can be appealed to 
as a ftandard, the name will hardly retain the 
moft perfect precifion in its fignification. 




CHAP. From what has been faid, I conceive it is 
^^- evident, that the words which fignify genera 
^"""^"^ an J fpecies of things have often as precife and 
definite a fignification as any words whatfoever; 
and that when it is otherwife, their want of 
precifion is not owing to their being general 
words, but to other caufes. 

Having fliewn that we may have a perfectly 
clear and diftind: conception of the meaning of 
general terms, we may, I think, take it for 
granted, that the fame may be faid of other 
general words, fuch as prepofitions, conjunc- 
tions, articles. My defign at prefent being 
only tofliew, that we have general conceptions 
no lefs clear and diftinft than thofe of individu- 
als, it is fufficient for this purpofe, if this ap- 
pears with regard to the conceptions expreffed 
by general terms. To conceive the meaning 
of a general word, and to conceive that whi^ch 
it fignifies, is the fame thing. We conceive 
diftindly the meaning of general terms, there- 
fore we conceive diftindly that which they fig- 
nify. But fuch terms do not fignify any indi- 
vidual, but what is common to many indivi- 
duals ; therefore we have a diftind conception 
of things common to many individuals, that 
is, we have diftinft general conceptions. 

We muft here beware of the ambiguity of 
the word conception, which fomerimes fignifies 
the aft of the mind in conceiving, fometimes 
the thing conceived, which is the object of 
that ad. If the word be taken in the firft fenfe, 
I acknowledge that every a<3: of the mind is an 
individual ad ; the univerfality, therefore, is 
not in the ad of the mind, but in the objed, 
or thing conceived. The thing conceived is an 
attribute common to many fubjeds, or it is a 
genus or fpecies common to many individuals. 



Suppofe I conceive a triangle, that is, a C H A P. 
plain figure terminated by three right lines. • 
He that underftands this definition diftinftly has 
adijflin^l conception of a triangle. But a trian- 
gle is not an individual ; it is a fpecies. The 
act of my underftanding in conceiving it is an 
individual ad, and has a real exiftence ; but 
the thing conceived is general, and cannot ex- 
ift without other attributes, which are not in- 
cluded in the definition. 

Every triangle that really exifls muft have a 
certain length of fides and meafure of angles ; 
it muft have place and time. But the defini- 
tion of a triangle includes neither exiftence, 
nor any of thofe attributes ; and therefore they 
are not included in the conception of a triangle, 
which cannot be accurate if it comprehend 
more than the definition. 

Thus I think it appears to be evident, that 
we have general conceptions that are clear and 
diftin£t, both of attributes of things, and of 
genera and fpecies of things. 


io6 ESSAY 


Of general Conceptions formed by analyfing 

"E arc next to confider the operations 
of the underflanding, by which we arc 
enabled to form general conceptions. 

Thefe appear to me to be three ; frji. The 
refolving or analyfing a fubjecl into its known 
attributes, and giving a name to each attribute, 
which name fhall fignify that attribute, and 
nothing more. 

Secondly, The obferving one or more fuch at- 
tributes to be common to many fubjeds. The 
firil is by Philofophers called abJlrad:ion:, the 
fecond may be called generalifing\ but both 
are commonly included under the name of 

It is difficult to fay which of them goes firft, 
or whether they are not fo clofely connefted 
that neither can claim the Precedence. For on 
the one hand, to perceive an agreement between 
two or more objeds in the flime attribute, 
feems to require nothing more than to com- 
pare them together. A favage, upon feeing 
fnow and chalk, would find no difficulty in 
perceiving that they have the fame colour. 
Yet, on the* other hand, it feem.s impoffible 
that he ffiould obferve this agreement without 
abftradion, that is, diftinguiffiing in his con- 
ception the colour, wherein thofe two objects 
agree, from the other qualities, wherein they 

It feems therefore, that we cannot generalife 
without feme degree of abflradionj but I ap- 

Conceptions formed by Anahftng Objects. 1 07 

prehend we may abftract without generalifmgrC HAP. 
For what hinders me from attending to the ^^^• 
whitenefs of-^'.iie paper before me, without ap- 
plying that colour to any other objed: The 
whitenefs of this individual object is an abftradt 
conception, but not a general one, while ap- 
plied to one individual only. Thefe two ope- 
rations, however, are fubfervient to each 
other; for the more attributes we obferve and 
diftinguilli in any one individual, the more 
agreements we fhall difcover between it and 
other individuals. 

A third operation of the underftanding, by 
which we form abftrad: conceptions, is the 
combining into one whole a certain number of 
thofe attributes of which we have formed ab- 
flraft notions, and giving a name to that com- 
bination. It is thus we form abftracl notions 
of the genera and fpecies of things. Thefe 
three operations we fhall confider in order. 

With regard to abftra<5lion, ftriftly fo called, 
I can perceive nothing in it that is difficult 
either to be underftood or praftifed. What 
can be more eafy than to diflinguifh the differ- 
ent attributes which we know to belong to a 
fubjeft? In a man, for inflance, to diflinguifli 
his fize, his complexion, his age, his fortune, 
his birth, his profeilion, and twenty other 
things that belong to him. To think and fpeak 
of thefe things with underilanding, is furely 
within the reach of every man endowed with 
the human faculties. 

There may be diftinttions that require nice 
difcernment, or an acquaintance with the fub- 
jed: that is not common. Thus, a critic in 
painting may difcern the flyle of Raphael or 
Titian, when another man could not. A 


io8 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP. lawyer may be acquainted with many diftin£li- 
ons in crimes, and contrads, and actions, 
which never occurred to a man who has not 
ftudied lav.'. One man may excel another in 
the talent of diflinguifhing, as he may in me- 
mory or in reafoning;, but there is a certain 
degree of this talent, without which a man 
would have no title to be confidered as a rea- 
fonable creature. 

It ought likewife to be obferved, that attri- 
butes may v/ith perfed eafe be diftinguifiied 
and disjoined in our conception, which cannot 
be actually feparated in the fubjed. Thus, in 
a body, I can diftinguifh its folidity from its 
extenfion, and its weight from both. In ex- 
tenfion I can diftinguifh length, breadth, and 
thicknefs, yet none of thefe can be feparated 
from the body, or from one another. There 
may be attributes belonging to a fubject, and 
infeparable from it, of which we have no 
knowledge, and confequently no conception ; 
but this does not hinder our conceiving dif- 
tindly thofe of its attributes which we know. 

Thus, all the properties of a circle are in- 
feparable from the nature of a circle, and may 
be demonilrated from its definition ; yet a man 
may have a perfedly diflinft notion of a circle, 
who knows very few of thofe properties of it 
which Mathematicians have domonllrated ; 
and a circle probably has many properties 
which no Mathematician ever dreamed of. 

It is therefore certain, that attributes, which 
in their nature are abfolutely infeparable from 
their fubjed:, and from one another, may be 
disjoined in our conception ; one cannot exifl 
without the other, but one can be conceived 
without the other. 


Conceptions formed by Analyftng ObjeSIs. 1 09 

Having confidered abftraftion, frriftly fo CHAP, 
called, let us next confider the operation of ^^^' 
generalifing, which is nothing but the obferv- 
ino- one or more attributes to be common to 
many fubjetls. 

If any man can doubt whether there be at- 
tributes that are really common to many indi- 
viduals, let him confider whether there be not 
many men that are above fix feet high, and 
many below it ; whether there be not many 
men that are rich, and many more that are 
poor ; whether there be not many that were 
born in Britain, and many that were born in 
France. To multiply inftances of this kind, 
would be to affront the reader's underflanding. 
It is certain therefore, that there are , innume- 
rable attributes that are really common to many 
individuals ; and if this be what the fchpolmen 
called univerfale a parte rei, we may affirm 
with certainty, that there are fuch univerfals. 

There are fome attributes expreffed by ge- 
neral words, of which this may feem more 
doubtful. Such are the qualities which are 
inherent in their feveral fubjeds. It may be 
faid that every fubjeft hath its own qualities, 
and that which is the quahty of one fubje(5i: 
cannot be the quality of another fubjedl. Thus 
the whitenefs of the flieet of paper upon which 
I write, cannot be the whitenefs of another 
flieet, though both are called white. The 
weight of one guinea is not the weight of 
another guinea, though both are faid to have 
the fame weight. 

To this I anfwer, that the whitenefs of this 
flieet is one thing, whitenefs is another ; the 
conceptions fignified by thefe two forms of 
fpeech are as different as the expreffions: The 


I ro 



^ ^ -^ ^-firfl fignifies an individual quality really exift- 
^__^,^J^ ing, and is not a general conception, though 
it be an abftract one : The fecond fignifies a 
general conception, which implies no exift- 
ence, but may be predicated of every thing 
that is white, and in the fame fenfe. On this 
account, if one fliould fay, that the whitenefs 
of this fliset is the whitenefs of another fheet, 
every man perceives this to be abfurd, but when 
he fays both fneets are white, this is true and 
perfc'Sily underflood. The conception of white- 
nefs implies no exiftence ; it would remain the 
fame, though every thing in the univerfe that 
is white were annihilated. 

It appears therefore, that the general names 

of qualities, as well as of other attributes, are 

"aplicable to many individuals in the lame 

fenfe, which cannot be if there be not general 

conceptions fignified by fuch names. 

If it fhould be afked, how early, or at what 
period of life, men begin to form general con- 
ceptions? I anfwer, As foon as a child can fay, 
with underfhanding, that he has two brothers 
or two fillers; as foon as he can ufe the plural 
number, he muft have general conceptions ; 
for no individual can have a plural number. 

As there are not two individuals in nature 
that agree in every thing, fo there are very few 
that do not agree in fomie things. We take 
pleafure from very early years in obferving 
fuch agreements. One great branch of what 
we call if/V, which when innocent, gives plea- 
fure to every good natured man, confilts in 
difcovering unexpefted agreements in things. 
The author of Hudibras could difcern a pro- 
perty common to the morning and a boiled 
lobfler, that both turn from black to red. 



Conceptions formed by Analyfing Objcfls. 1 1 1 

Swift could fee fomething common to wit and CHAP, 
an old cheefe. Such unexpefted agreements ^^^• 
may fhew wit ; but there are innumerable a- ''^"^^"^ 
greements of thins^s which cannot <!fcaDe the 
notice of the lowed underfhanding ; fuch as 
agreements in colour, magnitude, figure, fea- 
tures, time, place, age, and fo forth. Thefe 
agreements are the foundation of fo m.any 
common attributes, which are found in the 
rudefl languages. 

The ancient Philofophers called thefe uni- 
verfals, or predicables, and endeavoured to re- 
duce them to five clafles ; to wit, genus, fpe- 
cies, fpecific difference, properties, and acci- 
dents. Perhaps there may be more claiTes of 
univerfals or attributes, for enumerations, fo 
very general, are feldom complete ; but every 
attribute, common to. feveral individuals, may 
be expreffed by a general term, which is the 
fign of a general conception. 

How prone men are to form general concep- 
tions we may fee from the ufe of metaphor, 
and of the other figures of fpeech grounded 
on fimilitude. Similitude is nothing elfe than 
an agreement of the objects compared in one 
or more attributes; and if there be no attribute 
common to both, there can be no fimilitude. 

The fimilitudes and analogies betv/een the 
various objefts that nature prefents to us, are 
infinite and inexhauftible. They not only 
pleafe, when difplayed by the Poet or Wit in 
works of tafle, but they are highly ufeful in 
the ordinary communication of our thoughts 
and fentiments by language. In the rude lan- 
guages of barbarous notions, fimilitudes and 
analogies fupply the want of proper words to 
exprefs mens fentiments, fo much, that in fuch 


112 E S S A Y V. 

^ ^TT^ ^ languages there is hardly a fentence without a 
. yr-^^.^ metaphor; and if we examine the mod copi- 
ous and polilhed languages, we fhall find that 
a great proportion of the words and phrafes 
which are accounted the moft proper, may be 
faid to be the progeny of metaphor. 

As foreigners, who fettle in a nation as their 
home, come at laft to be incorporated, and 
lofe the denomination of foreigners, fo words 
and phrafes, at firll borrowed and figurative, 
by long ufe become denizens in the language, 
and lofe the denomination of figures of fpeech. 
When we fpeak of the extent of knowledge, 
the (leadinefs of virtue, the tendernefs of affec- 
tion, the perfpicuity of expreffion, no man- 
conceives thefe to be metaphorical exprellions ; 
they are as proper as any in the language : Yet 
it appears upon the very face of them, that they 
muft have been metaphorical in thofe who ufed 
them firft ; and that it is by ufe and prefcription 
that they have loft the denomination of figura- 
tive, and acquired a right to be confidered as 
proper words. This obfervation will be found 
to extend to a great part, perhaps the greateft 
part, of the words of the moft perfect lan- 
guages : Sometimes the name of an individual 
is given to a general conception, and thereby 
the individual in a manner generalifed. As 
when the Jew Shylock, in Shakespeare, fays, 
A Daniel come to judgment; yea, a Daniel! 
In this fpeech, a Daniel is an attribute, or an 
univerfal. The character of Daniel, as a man 
of fmgular wifdom, is abftraded from his per- 
fon, and confidered as capable of being attri- 
buted to other perfons. 

Upon the whole, thefe two operations of ab- 
ftracling and generalifing appear common to 


Co72C€ptiohs fsrmed by Analyftng ObjeEli, \ 1 3 

all men that have underftanding. The practice c H A P. 
of them is, and muft be, familiar to every man III. 
that ufes language ; but it is one thing to prac- '^ — -> 
tife them, and another to explain how they 
are performed ; as it is one thing to fee, ano- 
ther to explain how we fee. The firfl is the 
province of all men, and is the natural and eafy 
operation of the faculties which God hath given 
us. The fecond is the province of Philofo- 
phers, and though a matter of no great diffi- 
culty in itfelf, has been much perplexed by the 
ambiguity of words, and ftill more by the hy- 
pothefes of Philofophers. 

Thus when I confider a billiard ball, its co- 
lour is one attribute, which I fignify by calling 
it white ; its figure is another, which is figni- 
fied by calhng it fpherical ; the hrm cohefion 
of its parts is fignified by calling it hard ; its 
recoiling, when it flrikes a hard body, is figni- 
fied by its being called elaftic ; its origin, as 
being part of the tooth of an elephant, is fig- 
nified by calling it ivory ; and its ufc by call- 
ing it a biUiard ball. 

The words, by which each of thofe attri- 
butes is fignified, have one diflin£l meaning, 
and in this meaning are applicable to many in- 
dividuals. They fignify not any individual 
thing, but attributes common to many indivi- 
duals ; nor is it beyond the capacity of a child 
to underftand them perfedly, and to apply 
them properly to every individual in which 
they are found. 

As it is by analyfing a complex object into 
its feveral attributes that we acquire our fim- 
pleft abftracl conceptions, it may be proper to 
compare this analyfis with that which a Che- 
mift makes of a compounded body into the in- 
gredients which enter into its compofition ; for 

Vol. II. I although 

114 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP, although there be fuch an analogy between 
^^^' thefe two operations, that we give to both the 

^^'^^^y^^^ name of analyfis or refclution, there is at the 
fame time fo great a diihmilitude in fome re- 
fpects, that we may be led into error, by ap- 
plying to one what belongs to the other. 

It is obvious, that the chemical analylis is an 
operation of the hand upon matter, by vari- 
ous material inflrumicnts. The analyfis we are 
now explaining is purely an operation of the 
underflanding, which requires no material in- 
ftrument, nor produces any change upon any 
external thing ; we fliall therefore call it thein- 
telledual or mental analyfis. 

In the chemical analyfis, the compound body 
itfelf is the fubjecl analyfed. A fubject fo im- 
perfedly known, that it may be compounded 
of various ingredients, w hen to our fenfes it ap- 
pears perfectly fimple ; and even when we are 
able to analyfe it into the different ingredients 
of which it is compofed, we know not how ox 
why the combination of thofe ingredients pro- 
duces fuch a body. 

Thus pure fea-falt is a body, to appearance, 
as fimple as any in nature. Every the lead 
particle of it, difcernible by our fenfes, is per- 
fectly fimilar to every other particle in all its 
qualities. The nicefl talle, the quickeft eye, 
can difcern no mark of its being made up of 
different ingredients ; yet, by the chemical art, 
it can be analyfed into an acid ahd an alkali, 
and can be again produced by the combination 
of thofe two ingredients. But how this com- 
bination produces fea-falt, no man has been 
able to difcover. The ingredients are both as 
unlike the compound as any bodies we know. 
No man could have gueiled before the thing 


Conceptions formed by Analyfing OhjeBu 1 1 5 

Was known that fea-falt is compounded of thofeC HAP, 
two ingredients ; no man could have guefled, ^^^• 
that the union of thofe two ingredients fhould* 
produce fuch a compound as fea-falt. Such in 
many cafes are the phasnomena of the chemical 
ianalyfis of a compound body. 

If we confider the intelleftual analyfis of an 
iobjedt, it is evident that nothing of this kind 
can happen ; becaufe the thing analyfed is not 
an external object imperfectly known ; it is a 
conception of the mind itfelf. And to fuppofe 
that there can be any thing in a conception that 
is not conceived, is a contradiction. 

The reafon of obferving this difference be- 
tween thofe two kinds of analyfis is, that fome 
Philofophers, in order to fupport their fyflems, 
have maintained, that a complex idea may have 
the appearance of the mofl perfect fimplicity, 
and retain no fimilitude of any of the fimple 
ideas of which it is compounded ; juft as a 
white colour may appear perfectly fimple, and 
retain no fimilitude to any of the feven primary 
colours of which it is compounded ; or as a 
chemical compolition may appear perfectly 
fimple, and retain no fimilitude to any of the 

From which thofe Philofophers have drawn 
this important conclufion, that a clufter of the 
ideas of fenfe, properly combined, may make 
the idea of a mind ; and that all the ideas, 
which Mr. Locke calls ideas of reflection, are 
only compofitions of the ideas which we have 
by our five fenfes. From this the tranfition is 
eafy, that if a proper compofition of the ideas 
t)f matter may make the idea of a mind, then 
a proper compofition of matter itfelf may make 
I 2 a mind. 

ii6 ESSAY V. 

C H A P. a mind, and that man Is only a piece of matter 
11^- curioufly formed. 

In this curious fyftem, the whole fabric reds 
upon this foundation, that a complex idea, 
which is made up of various fimple ideas, may 
appear to be perfectly fimple, and to have no 
marks of compofition, becaufe a compound 
body may appear to our fenfes to be perfedlly 

Upon this fundamental proportion of this 
fyftem I beg leave to make two remarks. 

1. Suppofmg it to be true, it affirms only 
what may he. We are indeed in moft cafes very 
imperfect judges of what maybe. But this we 
know, that were we ever fo certain that a thing 
may be, this is no good reafon for believing 
that it really is. A may he is a mere hypothecs, 
which may furnifh matter of inveftigation, but 
is not entitled to the leaft degree of belief. 
The tranfitlon from what may be to what really 
is, is familiar and eafy to thofe who have a 
predilection for a hypothefis ; but to a man 
who feeks truth without prejudice or prepofT- 
effion, it is a very wide and difficult ftep, and 
he will never pafs from the one to the other, 
without evidence not only that the thing may 
be. but that it really is. 

2. As far as I am able to judge, this, which 
it is faid may be, cannot be. That a complex 
idea ffiouid be made up of fmiple ideas ; fo that 
to a ripe underftanding reflecting upon that 
idea, there fhould be no appearance of compo- 
fition, nothing fimilar to the fnnple ideas of 
which it is compounded, feems to me to in- 
volve a contradidlon. The idea is a concep- 
tion of the mind. If any thing more than this 
is meant by the idea, I know not what it is ; 


Ccnceptiom formed by Analyfing Objeds. 1 1 7 

and I wifh both to know what it is, and to haveC H A P. 
proof of its exiftence. Now that there fliould ,J1J;.^ 
be any thing in the conception of an object 
which is not conceived, appears to me as ma- 
nifefl a contradiction, as that there fhoidd be 
an exiftence which does not exift, or that a 
thing fhould be conceived, and not conceived 
at the fame time. 

But, fay thefe Philofophers, a white colour 
Is produced by the compofition of the primary 
colours, and yet has no refemblance to any ot 
them. I grant it. But what can be inferred 
from this with regard to the compofition of 
ideas ? To bring this argument home to the 
point, they mufl fay, that becaufe a white colour 
is compounded of the primary colours, therefore 
the idea of a white colour is compounded of 
the ideas of the primary colours. This rea- 
foning, if it was admitted, would lead to in- 
numerable abfurdities. An opaque fluid may 
be compounded of two or more pellucid fluids. 
Hence we might infer with equal force, that 
the idea of an opaque fluid may be compound- 
ed of the idea of two or more pellucid fluids. 

Nature's way of compounding bodies, and 
our way of compounding ideas, are fo different 
in many refpecis, that we cannot reafon from 
the one to the other, unlefs it can be found 
that ideas are combined by fermentations 
and elective attractions, and may be analyfed 
in a furnace by the force of fire and of mcn- 
ftruums. Until this difcovery be made, we 
muft hold thofe to be fimple ideas, which, upon 
the moll attentive reflection, have no appear- 
ance of compofition ; and thofe only to be the 
ingredients of complex ideas, which, by attentive 




CHAP, refledion, can be perceived to be contained ift 

"^' them. 

If the idea of mind, and its operations, may 
be compounded of the ideas of matter and its 
qualities, why may not the idea of matter be 
compounded of the idea sof mind ? There is the 
fame evidence for the lafl; may be as for the firft. 
And why may not the idea of found be com- 
pounded of the ideas of colour ; or the idea of 
colour of thofe of found ? Why may not the 
idea of wifdom be compounded of ideas of fol- 
ly ; or the idea of truth of ideas of abfurdity ? 
But we leave thefe myfterious ma-j bes to their\ 
that have faith to receive them. 

C H A Pi 

CoifCE?rioi^s Jbrmed by Combination. 119 


Of general Conceptions formed by Combination, 

AS, by an intelledual analyfis of objeds, 
we form general conceptions of fingle at- 
tributes, (which of all conceptions that enter 
into the human mind are the moll: fimple), fo, 
by combining feveral of thefe into one parcel, 
and giving a name to that combination, we form 
general conceptions that may be very com- 
plex, and at the fame time very dillinft. 

Thus one, who, by analyfing extended ob- 
je6ls, has got the fimple notions of a point, a 
line, ftraight or curve, an angle, a furface, a 
folid, can eafily conceive a plain furface, ter- 
minated by four equal ftraight lines meeting in 
four points at right angles. To this fpecies of 
figure he gives the name of a fquare. In like: 
manner, he can conceive a folid terminated by 
fix equal fquares, and give it the name of a 
cube. A fquare, a cube, and every name o£ 
mathematical figure, is a general term, ex- 
preffing a complex general conception, made 
by a certain combination of the fimple ele- 
ments into which we analyfe extended bodies. 

Every mathematical figure is accurately de- 
fined, by enumerating the fimple elements of 
which it is formed, and the manner of their 
combination. The definition contains the 
whole effence of it : And every property that 
belongs to it may be deduced by demonftrative 
reafoning from its definition. It is not a thing 
that exifts, for then it would be an individual ; 
but it is a thing that i§ conceived without re- 
gard to cxiflence. 

A farm. 

I20 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP. A farm, a manor, a parifh, a county, a 
^^•^- kingdom, are complex general conceptions, 
^'-^^^'^^^^ formed by various combinations and modifica- 
tions of inhabited territory, under certain forms 
of government. 

Different combinations of military men form 
the notions of a company, a regiment, an 

The feveral crimes which are the objedls of 
criminal law, fuch as theft, murder, robbery, 
piracy, what are they but certain combinations 
of human adions and intentions, which are 
accurately defined in criminal law, and which 
it is found convenient to comprehend under 
one name, and confider as one thing ? 

When we obferve, that Nature, in her 
animal, vegetable, and inanimate produftions, 
has formed many individuals that agree in 
many of their qualities and attributes, we are 
led by natural inftind to expeft their agree- 
ment in other qualities, which we have not 
had occafion to perceive. Thus, a child who 
has once burnt his finger, by putting it in the 
flame of one candle, expects the fame event 
if he puts it in the flame of another candle, or 
in any flame, and is thereby led to think that 
the quality of burning belongs to all flame. 
This inflinclive induction is noc juflified by the 
rules of logic, and it fometimes leads men into 
harm.lefs miflakes, which experience may af- 
terwards cone£l ; but it preferves us from de- 
firuclion in innumerable dangers to which we 
are expofed. 

The reafon of taking notice of this principle 
in human nature in this place is, that the dil- 
tribution of the productions of Nature into^f-- 
nera and /pedes becomes, on account of this 
principU, more generally ufeful. 


Coi^cE'P'Tio'ss firmed by Combination. 121 

The Phyfician expeds, that the rhubarb^^^P* 
which has never yet been tried will have like 
medical virtues with that which he has prefcri- 
bed on former occalions. Two parcels of rhu- 
barb agree in certain fenfible qualities, from 
which agreement they are both called by the 
fame general name rhubarb. Therefore it is 
expected that they will agree in their medical 
virtues. And as experience has difcovered 
certain virtues in one parcel, or in many par- 
cels, we prefume, without experience, that 
the fame virtues belong to all parcels of rhu- 
barb that Ihall be ufed. 

If a traveller meets a horfe, an ox, or a 
fheep, which he never faw before, he is under 
no apprehenfion, believing thefe animals to be 
of a fpecies that is tame and inoffenfive. But 
he dreads a lion or a tyger, becaufe they are 
of a fierce and ravenous fpecies. 

We are capable of receiving innumerable 
advantages, and are expofed to innumerable 
dangers, from the various produftions of Na- 
ture, animal, vegetable, and inanimate. The 
life of man, if an hundred times longer than it 
is, would be infufHcient to learn from experi- 
ence the ufeful and hurtful qualities of every 
individual production of Nature taken fmgly. 

The Author of Nature hath made provihon 
for our attaining that knowledge of his works 
which is neceflary for our fubfiitence and pre- 
fervation, partly by the conftitution of the pro- 
ductions of Nature, and partly by the confti- 
tution of the human mind. 

For^r/?, In the productions of Nature, great 
numbers of individuals are made fo like to one 
another, both in their obvious and in their 
more occult quaHties, that we are not only en- 

122 ESSAY V« 

C H A P.abled, but invited, as it were, to reduce them 
_ into claffes, and to give a general name to a 
^^^^ clafs ; a name which is common to every indi- 
vidual of the clafs, becaufe it comprehends in 
its fignilication thofe qualities or attributes only 
that are common to all the individuals of that 

Secondly^ The human mind is fo framed, that, 
from the agreement of individuals in the more 
obvious qualities by which we reduce them into 
one clafs, we are naturally led to expeO: that 
they will be found to agree in their more latent 
qualities, and in this we are feldom difap» 

We have, therefore, a ftrong and rational 
inducement, both to diftribute natural fub- 
ftances into clafTes, genera 2Ji6. /pedes, under 
general names ; and to do this with all the ac- 
curacy and diflindnefs we are able. For the 
fiiore accurate our divifions are made, and the 
more diftinftly the feveral fpecies are defined, 
the more fecurely we may rely, that the quali- 
ties we find in one or in a few individuals will 
be found in all of the fame fpecies. 

Every fpecies of natural fubftances which has 
a name in language, is an attribute of many 
individuals, and is itfelf a combination of morer 
iimple attributes, which we obferve to be com- 
mon to thofe individuals. 

We fhall find a great part of the words of 
every language, nay, I apprehend, the far 
greater part, to fignify combinations of more 
fimple general conceptions, which men have 
found proper to be bound up, as it were, in 
one parcel, by being defigned by one name. 

Some general conceptions there are, which 
may more properly be called compfitions or 


Conceptions /^rw^^ hy Combination. \t% ' 

^orh than mere combinations. Thus, oneCHAP. 
may conceive a machine which never exifled. ^^ 
He may conceive an air in mufic, a poem, a ^'^'~ 
plan of architefture, a plan of government, a 
plan of conduct in public or in private life, a 
fcntence, a difcourfe, a treatife. Such com- 
pofitions are things conceived in the mind of 
the author, not individuals that really exift ; 
and the fame general conception M^hich the au- 
thor had may be communicated to others by 

Thus, the Oceana of Harrington was 
conceived in the mind of its author. The ma-r 
terials of which it is compofed are things con-; 
ceived, not things that exifled. His fenate, 
his popular alTembly, bis magiftrates, his elec- 
tions, are all conceptions of his mind, and the 
whole is one complex conception. And the 
fame may be faid of every work of the human 

Very different from thefe are the works of 
God, which we behold. They arc works of 
creative power, not of underftanding only. 
They have a real exiftence. Our bed concep- 
tions of them are partial and imperfect. But 
of the works of the human underftanding our 
conception may be perfedt and complete. 
They are nothing but what the author conceiv- 
ed, and what he can exprefs by language, fo 
as to convey his conception perfectly to men 
like himfelf. 

Although fuch works are indeed complex 
general conceptions, they do not fo properly 
belong to our prefent fubje£t. They are more 
the objeds of judgment and of tafte, than of 
bare conception or fimple apprehenfion. 


124 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP. To return therefore to thofe complex con- 
^^' ceptions which are formed merely by combm- 
^"'^'"'^'"^ ing thofe that are more fin::plc. Nature has 
given us the power of combining fuch fimple 
attributes, and fuch a number of them as we 
find proper ; and of giving, one name to that 
combination, and considering it as one objed 
of thought. 

The fimple attributes of things, which fall 
under our obfervation, are not fo numerous 
but that they may all have names in a copious 
language. But to give names to all the com- 
binations that can be made of two, three, or 
more of them, would be impoflible. The 
moft copious languages have names but for a 
very fmall part. 

It may likewife be obferved, that the com- 
binations that have names are nearly, though 
not perfedly, the fame in the different langua- 
ges of civilized nations, that have intercourfe 
with one another. Hence it is, that the Lexi- 
cographer, for the moll: part, can give words 
in one language anfwering perfectly, or very 
nearly, to thofe of another ; and what is wrote 
in a limple ftyle in one language, can be tranf- 
lated almod word for v.ord into another. 

From thefe obfervations we may conclude, 
that there are either certain common principles 
of human nature, or certain common occur- 
rences of human life, which difpofe men, out 
of an infinite number that might be formed, to 
form certain combinations raiher than others. 

Mr. Hume, in order to account for this 
phsenomenon, has recourfe to what he calls the 
alTociating qualities of ideas ; to wit, caufation, 
contiguity in time, and place, and fimilitude. 
He conceives, "ihat one of the mod remarka- 

" ble 

Conceptions /or/?z^^ /'}' Combination. 125 

" ble efFeds of thofe alTociating qualities, isCHAP. 
" the complex ideas which are the common ^^* 
" fubjefts of our thoughts. That this alfo is 
" the caufe why languages fo nearly correfpond 
*' to one another. Nature in a manner point- 
" ing out to every one thofe ideas which are 
" moft proper to be united into a complex 
" one." 

I agree with this ingenious author, that Na- 
ture in a manner points out thofe funple ideas, 
which are mofl proper to be united into a com- 
plex one : But Nature does this, not folely or 
chiefly by the relations between the fimple 
ideas, of contiguity, caufation, and refem- 
blance ; but rather by the fitnefs of the com- 
binations we make, to aid our own concep- 
tions, and to convey them to others by lan- 
guage eafily and agreeably. 

The end and ufe of language, without regard 
to the aflbciating qualities of ideas, will lead 
men that have common underflanding to form 
fuch complex notions as are proper for ex- 
pfefling their wants, their thoughts, and their 
defires : And in every language we fliall find 
thefe to be the complex notions that have 

In the rudeft flate offociety, men muft have 
occafion to form the general notions of man, 
woman, father, mother, fon, daughter, fifter, 
brother, neighbour, friend, enemy, and many 
others, to exprefs the common relations of one 
perfon to another. 

If they are employed in hunting, they mufi: 
have general terms to exprefs the various im- 
plements and operations of the chaee. Their 
houfes and clothing, however fimple, will fur- 
nifh another fet of general terms, to exprefs 


126 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP, the materials, the workmanflilp, and the ex- 
cellencies and defects of thofe fabrics. If they 
fail upon rivers, or upon the fea, this will give 
occafion to a great number of general terms, 
which oiiherwife would never have occurred to 
their thoughts. 

The fame thing may be faid of agriculture, 
of pafturage, of every art they praclife, and of 
every branch of knowledge they attain. The 
neceffity of general terms for communicating 
our fentiments is obvious ; and the invention 
of them, as far as we find them necelTary, re- 
quires no other talent but that degree of un- 
derftanding which is common to men. 

The notions of debtor and creditor, of pro- 
fit and lofs, of account, balance, flock on 
hand, and many others, are owing to com- 
merce. The notions of latitude, longitude, 
courfe, diftance run ; and thofe of fhips, and 
of their various parts, furniture and operati- 
ons, are owing to navigation. The Anatomifl 
mull have names, for the various fimilar and 
diilimilar parts of the human body, and words, 
to exprefs their figure, pofition, flruclure, and 
ufe. The Phyfician mufl have names for the 
various difeafes of the body, their caufes^ 
fymptoms, and means of cure. 

The like may be faid of the Grammarian, 
the Logician, the Critic, the Rhetorician, the 
Moralifl, the Naturalill, the Mechanic, and 
every man that profeffes any art or fcience. 

When any difcovery is made in art or in 
nature, which requires new combinations and 
new words to exprefs it properly, the invention 
of thefe is eafy to thofe who have a diftincl no- 
tion of the thing to be expreffed ; and fuch 
words will readily be adopted, and receive the 
public fanclion. 


Conceptions /(?r;;2^^ by Combination. 1^7 

If, on the other hand, any man of eminence,^ ^^ ^: 
through vanity or want of judgment, fhould ^.^.^1, 
invent new words, to exprefs combinations 
that have neither beauty nor utility, or which 
may as well be exprefled in the current lan- 
guage, his authority may give them currency 
for a time with fervile imitators, or blind ad- 
mirers: But the judicious will laugh at them, 
and they will foon lofe their credit. So true 
was the obfervation made by Pomponius Mar- 
CELLUS, an ancient Grammarian, to Tiberius 
C^SAR. " You, C^SAR, have power to 
*' make a man a denizen of Rome, but not 
" to make a word a denizen of the Roman 
" language." 

Among nations that are civilized, and have 
intercourfe with one another, the nioft necef- 
fary and ufeful arts will be common; the im- 
portant parts of human knowledge will be 
common; their feveral languages will be fitted 
to it, and confequently to one another. 

New inventions of general ufe give an eafy 
birth to new complex notions and new names, 
which fpread as far as the invention does. 
How many new complex notions have been 
formed, and names for them invented in the 
languages of Europe, by the modern inven- 
tions of printing, of gunpowder, of the ma- 
riner's compafs, of optical glaffes ? The fimple 
ideas combined in thofe complex notions, and 
the affociating qualities of thofe ideas, are very 
ancient ; but they never produced thofe com- 
plex notions until there was ufe for them. 

What is peculiar to a nation in its cuftoms, 
manners, or laws, will give occafion to com- 
plex notions and words peculiar to the language 
of that nation. Hence it is eafy to fee, why 


128 E S S A Y V. 

C H A P. an impeachment, and an attainder, in the 
*^- Englifli language, and oflracifm in the Greek 
language, have not names anfwering to them 
in other languages. 

I apprehend, therefore, that it is utility, 
and not the aflbciating qualities of the ideas, 
that has led men to form only certain combi- 
nations, and to give names to them in lan- 
guage, while they negled; an infinite number 
that might be formed. 

The common occurrences of life, in the in- 
tercourfe of men, and in their occupations, 
give occafion to many complex notions. We 
fee an individual occurrence, which draws our 
attention more or lefs, and may be a fubjeft 
of converfation. Other occurrences, fimilar 
to this in many refpecls, have been obferved, 
or may be expeded. It is convenient that wc 
fliould be able to fpeak of what is common to 
them all, leaving out the unimportant circum- 
ftances of time, place, and perfons. This we 
can do with great eafe, by giving a name to 
what is common to all thofe individual occur- 
rences. Such a name is a great aid to language, 
becaufe it comprehends, in one word, a great 
number of fimple notions, v/hich it would be 
very tedious to exprefs in detail. 

Thus men have formed the complex notions 
of eating, drinking, fleeping, walking, rid- 
ing, running, buying, felling, plowing, fow- 
ing, a dance, a feaft, war, a battle, vidtory, 
triumph ; and others without number. 

Such things mult frequently be the fubjed 
of converfation; and if we had not a more 
compendious way of exprellmg them than by 
a detail of all the fimple notions they compre- 
hend, we {hould lofe the benefit of fpeech. 


Conceptions fanned by Combiination. 129 

The different talents, difpofitions, and ha-CHAP. 
bits of men in fociety, being interefhing to ^^• 
thofe who have to do with them, will in every'"' " 
language have general names; fuch as wife, 
foolifli, knowing, ignorant, plain, cunning. 
In every operative art, the tools, inftruments, 
materials, the work produced, and the various 
excellencies and defeds of thefe, mufl have 
general names. 

The various relations of perfoiis, and of 
things which cannot efcape the obfervation of 
men in fociety, lead us to many complex ge- 
neral notions: fuch as father, brother, friend, 
enemy, mailer, fervant, property, theft, re- 

The terms of art in the fciences make 
another clafs of general names of complex no- 
tions; as in mathematics, axiom, definition, 
problem, theorem, demonftration. 

I do not attempt a complete enumeration 
even of the clalTes of complex general con- 
ceptions. Thofe I have named as a fpecimen, 
1 think, are moflly comprehended under what 
Mr. Locke calls mixed modes and relations; 
which, he juftly obferves, have names given 
thein in language, in preference to innumera- 
ble others that might be formed; for this rea- 
fon only, that they are ufeful for the purpofc 
of communicating our thoughts by language. 

In all the languages of mankind, not only 
the writings and difcourfes of the learned, but 
the converfation of the vulgar, is almofl en- 
tirely made up of general words, which are 
the figns of general conceptions, either fimple 
or complex. And in every language, we find 
the terms fignifying complex notions to be 

Vol. II. K fuch. 

v^ — ., 

130 E S S A Y V. 

C H A p. fuch, and only fuch, as the ufe of language 
'^- require*. 

There remains a verv large clafs of complex 
general rerms, on i\hich I fl^all make fomeob- 
fervations ; I mean thofe by which we name the 
fptcies, genera, and tribes of natural fubflan- 

It is utihty, indeed, that leads us to give ge- 
neral names to the various fpecies of natural 
fubftances; but, in combining the attributes 
which are included under the fpecific name, 
we are more aided and directed by Nature, 
than in forming other combinations of mixed 
modes and relations. In the laft, the ingre- 
dients are brought together in the occurrences 
of life, or in the aftions or thoughts of men. 
But, in the firft, the ingredients are united by 
nature in many individual fubftances which 
God has made. We form a general notion 
of thofe attributes, wherein many individuals 
agree. We give a fpecific name i:o this com- 
bination ; which name is common to all fub- 
ftances havi.og thofe attributes, which either 
do or may exift. The fpecinc name compre- 
hends neither more nor fewer attributes than 
we find proper to put into its definition. .It 
comprehends not time, nor place, nor even 
exigence, although there can be no individual 
without thefe. 

This work of the underftanding is abfolute- 
ly neceiTary for fpeaking intelligibly of the pro- 
duftions of Nature, and for reaping the be- 
nefits we receive, and avoiding the dangers 
we are expofed to from them. The individuals 
are fo many, that to give a proper name to 
each would be beyond the power of language. 
If a good or bad quality was obferved in an 
individual, of how fmall ufe v/ould this be, if 


Conceptions formed by Combination. 13 1 

there was not a fpecies in which the fame qua-C HAP. 
lity might be expeded ? ^V. 

Without fome general knowledge of the 
qualities of natural fubflances, human life 
could not be referved. And there can be no 
general knowledge of this kind, without re- 
ducing them to fpecies under fpecific names. 
For this reafon, among the rudefl nations, we 
find names for fire, water, earth, air, moun- 
tains, fountains, rivers; for the kinds of vege- 
tables they ufe; of animals they hunt or tame, 
or that are found ufeful or hurtful. 

Each of thofe names fignifies in general a 
fubftance having a certain combination of at- 
tributes. The name therefore muft be com- 
mon to all fubftances in which thofe attributes 
are found. 

Such general names of fubftances being 
found in all vulgar languages, before Philofo- 
phers began to make accurate divifions, and 
lefs obvious diftinftions, it is not to be expeft- 
ed that their meaning fliould be more precife 
than is neceifary for the common purpofes of 

As the knowledge of Nature advances, 
more fpecies of natural fubftances are obferved, 
and their ufeful qualities difcovered. In order 
that this important part of human knowledge 
may be communicated, and handed down to 
future generations, it is not fufficient that the 
fpecies have names. Such is the fluctuating 
ftate of language, that a general name will not 
always retain the fame precife fignification, 
unlefs it have a definition in which men are dif- 
pofed to acquiefce. 

There was undoubtedly a great fund of na- 
tural knowledge among the Greeks and Ro- 
mans in the time of Pliny. There is a great 
fund in his natural hiftory ; but much of it is 
K 2 loft 



CHAP, loft to us, for this reafon among others, that 
^^- we know not what fpecies of fubftance he 
^~^~ ^ means by fuch a name. 

Nothing could have prevented this lofs but 
an accurate definition of the name, by which 
the fpecies might have been diftinguifhed from 
all others, as long as that name and its defini- 
tion remained. 

To prevent fuch lofs in future times, modern 
Philofophers have very laudably attempted to 
give names and accurate definitions of all the 
known fpecies of fubftances, wherewith the 
bountiful Creator hath enriched our globe. 

This is neceifary, in order to form a copious 
and diftinct language concerning them, and 
confequently to facilitate our knowledge of 
them, and to convey it to future generations. 

Every fpecies that is known to exiP. ought to 
have a name; and that name ought to be de- 
fined by fuch attributes as ferve beft to diftin- 
guifli the fpecies from all others. 

Nature invites to this work, by having form- 
ed things fo as to make it both eafy and im- 

For, firji^ We perceive numbers of indivi- 
dual fubftances fo like in their obvious quali- 
ties, that the moft unimproved tribes of men 
confider them as of one fpecies, and give them 
one common name. 

Secondly, The more latent qualities of fub- 
ftances are generally the fame in all the indivi- 
duals of a fpecies: So that what, by obferva- 
tion or experiment, is found in a few indivi- 
duals of a fpecies, is prefumed, and common- 
ly found to belong to the whole. By this we 
are enabled, from particular facls, to draw 
general conclufions. This kind of induction 
is indeed the mafter-key to the knowledge of 


Conceptions formed by Combination. 


Nature, without which we could form no ge- CHAP, 
neral conclufions in that branch of philofophy. ^^• 

-And, thirdly. By the very conftitution of '*''''"'''"*^ 
our nature, we are led, without reafoning, to 
afcribe to the whole fpecies what we have 
found to belong to the individuals. It is thus 
we come to know that fire burns, and water 
drowns ; that bodies gravitate, and bread nou- 

The fpecies of two of the kingdoms of Na- 
ture, to wit, the animal and the vegetable,' 
feem to be fixed by Nature, by the power they 
have of producing their like. And in thefe, 
men in all ages and nations have accounted the 
parent and the progeny of the fame fpecies. 
The differences among Naturalifts, with re- 
gard to the fpecies of thefe two kingdoms, 
are very inconfiderable, and may be occafioned 
by the changes produced by foil, climate, 
and culture, and fometimes by monftrous pro- 
dutlions, which are comparatively rare. 

In the inanimate kingdom we have not the 
fame means of dividing things into fpecies, 
and therefore the limits of fpecies feem to be 
more arbitrary : But from the progrefs already 
made, there is ground to hope, that even in 
this kingdom, as the knowledge of it advances, 
the various fpecies may be fo well diflinguifh- 
ed and defined as to anfwer every valuable pur- 

When the fpecies are fo numerous as to bur- 
den the memory, it is greatly affifted by dif- 
tributing them into genera; the genera into 
tribes, the tribes into orders, and the orders 
into claffes. 

Such a regular diflribution of natural fub- 
ftances, by divifions andfubdivifions, has got 
the name of a fyftem. 




It is not a fyftem of truths, but a fyftem of 
general terms, with their definitions; and it 
is not only a great help to memory, but faci- 
litates very much the definition of the terms. 
For the definition of the genus is common to 
all the fpecies of that genus, and fo is under- 
flood in the definition of each fpecies, without 
the trouble of repetition. In like manner, the 
definition of a tribe is underftood in the defi- 
nition of every genus, and every fpecies of 
that tribe ; and the fame may be faid of every 
fuperior divifion. 

The effedl of fuch a fyftematical diftribution 
of the productions of Nature, is feen in our 
fyftems of zoology, botany, and mineralogy ; 
in which a fpecies is commonly defined accu- 
rately in a line or tv/o, which, without the 
fyftematical arrangement, could hardly be de- 
fined in a page. 

With regard to the utility of fyftems of this 
kind, men have gone into contrary extremes ; 
fome have treated them with contempt, as a 
mere dictionary of words ; others, perhaps, 
reft in fuch fyftems, as all that is worth know- 
ing in the works of Nature. 

On the one hand, it is not the intention of 
fuch fyftems to communicate all that is known 
of the natural produ£tions which they defcribe. 
The properties moft fit for defining and diftin- 
guilhing the feveral- fpecies, ars^ not always 
thofe that ?re moft ufefui to be known. To 
diicover and to communici'.te the ufes of natu- 
ral fubftances in life, and in the arts, is no 
doubt that part of the bufmefs of a Naturalift 
which is the moft important ; and the fyftema- 
tical arrangement of them is chiefly to be va- 

CoucEFTio'SS formed by Combination. ^2)5 

lued for its fublerviency to this end. This^^^^^* 
every judicious Naturalid will grant. , , ^ J.^ 

But, on the other hand, the labour is no't 
to be defpifed, by which the road to an ufeful 
and important branch of knowledge is made 
eafy in all time to come ; efpecially when tins 
labour requires both extenfive knowledge and 
great abilities. 

The talent of arranging properly, and defi- 
ning accurately, is fo rare, and at the fame 
time fo ufeful, that it may very juftly be confi- 
dered as a proof of real genius, and as entitled 
to a higher degree of praife. There is an in- 
trinfic beauty in arrangement, which capti- 
vates the mind, and gives pleafure, even ab- 
ftradting from its utility ; as in mofl: other 
things, fo in this particularly, Nature has join- 
ed beauty with utility. The arrangement of 
an army in the day of battle is a grand fpecla- 
cle. The fame men crowded in a fair, have 
no fuch effeci:. It is not more ftrange there- 
fore that fome men fpend their d.iys in Itudying 
fyftems of Nature, than that other men employ 
their lives in the ftudy of language^'. The 
moll important end of thole fyftems, lurely is 
to form a copious and an unambiguous lan- 
guage concerning the productions of Nature, 
by which every ufeful difcovery concerning 
them may be communicated to the prefeiu, 
and tranfmitted to all future generations, with- 
out danger of miftake. 

General terms, efpecially fuch as are com- 
plex in their fignification, will never keep one 
precife meaning without accurate definition ; 
and accurate definitions of fuch terms can in 
no way be formed fo eafily and advantageouf- 

136 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP. Ivj as by reducing the things they fignify into 
• a regular fyftem. 

Very eminent men in the medical profeffion, 
in order to remove ail ambiguity in the names 
of difeafes, and to advance the healing art, 
have of late attem^pted to reduce into a fyfte- 
matical order the difeafes of the human body, 
and to give diflinft names, and accurate defi- 
nitions, of the feveral fpecies, genera^ orders, 
and claifes, into which they djftribute them ; 
and I apprehend, that in every art and fcience, 
where the terms of the art have any ambiguity 
that obftructs its progrefs, this method will be 
found the eafieft and mod fuccefsful for the 
remedy of that evil. 

It were even to be wiflied, that the general 
terms which we find in common language, as 
well as thofe of the arts and fciences, could be 
reduced to a fyftematical arrangement, and de- 
fined fo as that they might be free from ambi- 
guity ; but perhaps the obflacles to this are in- 
surmountable. 1 know no man who has at- 
tempted it but Bifliop WiLKiNS in his Eifay 
towards a real character and a philofophical 
language. The attempt was grand, and wor- 
thy of a man of genius. 

The formation of fuch fyflems, therefore, 
of the various productions of Nature, inftead 
of being defpifed, ought to be ranked among 
the valuable improvements of modern ages, 
and to be the more efteemed that its utility 
reaches to the moft diflant future times, and, 
like the invention of writing, ferves to embalm 
a moft important branch of human knowledge, 
and to preferve it from being corrupted or 



C H A P. V. 

Obfervations concerning the Names given to our 
general Notions. 

HAVING now explained, as well as I am 
able, thofe operations of the mind by 
which we analyfe the objefts which Nature 
prefents to our obfervation, into their fimple 
attributes, giving a general name to each, 
and by which we combine any number of fuch 
attributes into one whole, and give a general 
name to that combination, I fhall offer fome 
obfervations relating to our general notions, 
whether fimple or complex. 

I apprehend that the names given to them 
by modern Philofophers have contributed to 
darken our fpeculations about them, and to 
render them difficult and abflrufe. 

We call them general notions, conceptions, 
ideas. The words notion and conception, in 
their proper and mod common fenfe, fignify 
the atl or operation of the mind in conceiving 
an obje6l. In a figurative fenfe, they are 
fometimes put for the object conceived. And 
I think they are rarely, if ever, ufed in this 
figurative fenfe, except when we fpeak of what 
we call general notions or general conceptions. 
The word idea, as it is ufed in modern times, 
has the fame ambiguity. 

Now, it is only in the lafl of thefe fenfes, 
and not in the firft, that we can be faid to have 
general notions or conceptions. The genera- 
lity is in the objcft conceived, and not in the 
aft of the mind by which it is conceived. 
Every act of the mind is an individual aft, 


138 ESSAY V. 

CHAP, which does or did exift. But we have power 
to conceive things which neither do nor ever 
did exift. We have power to conceive attri- 
butes without regard to their exiftence. The 
conception of fuch an attribute is a real and 
individual aft of the mind ; but the attribute 
conceived is common to many individuals that 
do or may exift. We are too apt to confound 
an objeS; of conception with the con .eption of 
that object. But the danger of doing .i-'s niuft 
be much greater when the object of conception 
is called a conception. 

The Peripatetics gave to fuch objects of 
conception the names of univerfals, and of 
predicables. Thofe names had no ambiguity, 
and I think were much more fit to exprefs 
what was meant by them than the names we 

It is for this reafon that I have fo often ufed 
the word attribute, which has the fame mean- 
ing with predicable. And for the fame reafon, 
I have thought it neceflary repeatedly to warn 
the reader, that when, in compliance with 
cuftom, I fpeak of general notions or general 
conceptions, I always mean things conceived, 
and not the aft of the mind in conceiving 

The Pythagoreans and Piatonifts gave the 
name of ideas to fuch general objefts of con- 
ception, and to nothing elfe. As we borrow- 
ed the word idea from them, fo that it is now 
familiar in all the languages of Europe, I think 
it would have been happy if we had alfo bor- 
rowed their meaning, and had ufed it only to 
fignify what they meant by it. I apprehend 
we want an unambiguous word to diftinguifti 
things barely conceived from things that exift. 


Of NAMES given to general NOTIONS. 139 

If the word idea was ufed for this purpofe only, CHAP, 
it would be reftored to its original meaning, '^• 
and fuppiy that want. 

We may furely agree with the Platonifts in 
the meaning of the v/ord idea^ without adopt- 
ing their theory concerning ideas. We need 
not believe, with them, that ideas are eternal 
and fclf-exiflent, and that they have a more 
real exiftence than the things we fee and feel. 
They were led to give exiftence to ideas, 
from the common prejudice that every thing 
which is an object of conception muPc really 
exift ; and having once given exiftence to 
ideas, the reft of their myfterious fyftem about 
ideas followed of courfe ; for things merely 
conceived, have neither beginning nor end, 
time nor place ; they are fubject to no change; 
they are the patterns and exemplars according 
to which the Deity made every thing that he 
made ; for the work muft be conceived by the 
artificer before it is made. 

Thefe are undeniable attributes of the ideas 
of Plato, and if w^ add to them that of real 
exiftence, we have the whole myfterious fyftem 
of Platonic ideas. Take away the attribute of 
exiftence, and fuppofe them not to be things 
that exift, but things that are barely conceived, 
and all the myftery is removed ; all that re- 
mains is level to the human underftanding. 

The word ejfcnce came to be much ufed 
among the fchoolmen, and what the Platonifts 
called the idea of a fpecies, they called its 
eftence. The word ejfentia is faid to have been 
made by Cicero ; but even his authority could 
not give it currency, until long after his time. 
It came at laft to be ufed, and the fchoolmen 
fell into much the fame opinions concerning 


140 ESSAY V. 

CHAP, eflences, as the Platonifts held concerning 
y- ideas. The elTences of things were held to be 
^''^'^^ uncreated, eternal, and immutable. 

Mr. Locke diftinguifhes two kinds of 
eflence, the real and the nominal. By the real 
effence he means the conftitution of an indivi- 
dual, which makes it to be what it is. This 
efience muft begin and end with the individual 
to which it belongs. It is not therefore a 
Platonic idea. But what Mr. Locke calls the 
nominal effence, is the conftitution of a fpecies, 
or that which makes an individual to be of fuch 
a fpecies ; and this is nothing but that combi- 
nation of attributes which is fignified by the 
name of the fpecies, and which we conceive 
without regard to exiflence. 

The effence of a fpecies therefore, is what 
the Platonifls called the idea of the fpecies. 

If the word idea be reftrided to the meaning 
which it bore among the Platonifts and Pytha- 
goreans, many things which Mr. Locke has 
faid with regard to ideas will be juft and true, 
and others will not. 

It will be true, that moft words, (indeed all 
general words,) are the figns of ideas ; but 
proper names are not ; they fignify individual 
things, and not ideas. It will be true not only 
that there are general and abftract ideas, but 
that all ideas are general and abftracl:. It will 
be fo far from the truth, that all our fmiple 
ideas are got immediately, either from fenfa- 
tion, or from confcioufnefs ; that no fimple 
idea is got by either, v.'ithout the co-operation 
of other powers. The objeds of fenfe, ot me- 
mory, and of confcioufnefs, are not ideas but 
individuals ; they muft be analyfed by the un- 
derftanding into their fimple ingredients, be- 

Of NAMES given to general NOTIONS. 141 

fore we can have fimple ideas ; and thofe fimple CHAP, 
ideas muft be again combined by the under- Y- 
{landing, in diftin6t parcels with names annex-*" — ^""^ 
ed, in order to give us complex ideas : It will 
be probable not only that brutes have no ab- 
ftraft ideas, but that they have no ideas at all. 

I fhall only add, that the learned author of 
the origin and progrefs of language, and per- 
haps his learned friend Mr. Harrjs, are the 
only modern authors I have met with, who re- 
flridl the word idea to this meaning. Their 
acquaintance with ancient philofophy led them 
to this. What pity is it that a word, which in 
ancient philofophy had a diftinft meaning, and 
which, if kept to that meaning, would have 
been a real acquifiticn to our language, fhould 
be ufed by the moderns in fo vague and am- 
biguous a manner, that it is more apt to per- 
plex and darken our fpeculations, than to 
convey ufeful knowledge. 

From all that has been faid about abflraft 
and general conceptions, I think we may draw 
the following conclufions concerning them. 

Firji^ That it is by abflradion that the mind 
is furnifhed with all its mofl fmiple, and mod 
diftin£t notions: The hmplefl; objeds of fenfe 
appear both complex and indiftinct, until by 
abftradion they are analyfed into their more 
fimple elements ; and the fame may be faid of 
the objects of memory and of confcioufnefs. 

Secondly, Our mofl diftinct complex notions 
are thofe that are formed by compounding the 
fimple notions got by abftraclion. 

Thirdly, Without the powers of abflradling 
and generalifing, it would be impolTible to re- 
duce things into any order and method, by di- 
viding them into genera and fpecies. 


142 E S S A Y V. 

C HA P. Fourthly, Without thofe powers there could 
^- be no definition j for definition can only be ap- 
^ plied to univerfals, and no individual can be 

Fifthly, Without abftradl and general notions 
there can neither be reafoning nor language. 

Sixthly, As brute animals Ihew no figns 
of being able to diftinguifh the various attri- 
butes of the fame fubjeft ; of being able to clafs 
things into genera and fpecies ; to define, to 
reafon, or to communicate their thoughts by 
artificial figns, as men do ; I muft think -with 
Mr. Locke, that they have not the powers of 
abfl:rai9:ing and generalifing ; and that in this 
particular Nature has made afpecific difference 
between them and the human fpecies. 




Opinions of Fhilofophers about Univerfah* 

IN the ancient philofophy, the doftrine of 
univerfals, that is, of things which we ex- 
prefs by general terms, makes a great figure. 
The ideas of the Pythagoreans and Platoniils, 
of which fo much has been already faid, were 
univerfals. All fcience is employed about uni- 
verfals as its objeft. It was thought that there 
can be no fcience unlefs its objeft be fomething 
real and immutable ; and therefore thofe who 
paid homage to truth and fcience, maintained 
that ideas or univerfals have a real and immu- 
table exiftence. 

The fceptics, on the contrary, (for there 
were fceptical Philofophers in thofe early days) 
maintained, that all things are mutable, and 
in a perpetual flud;uation ; and from this prin- 
ciple inferred, that there is no fcience, no 
truth ; that all is uncertain opinion. 

Plato, and his mafters of the Pythagorean 
fchool, yielded this with regard to objefts of 
fenfe, and acknowledged that there could be 
no fcience or certain knowledge concerning 
them : But they held, that there are objeds of 
intelleft of a fuperior order and nature, which 
are permanent and immutable. Thefe are 
ideas, or univerfal natures, of which the ob- 
jefts of fenfe are only the images and fliadows. 

To thefe ideas they afcribed, as I have al- 
ready obferved, the moft magnificent attri- 
butes. Of man, of a rofe, of a circle, and of 
every fpecies of things, they believed that there 


144 ESSAY V. 

C HA P. is one idea or form, which exifted from eter- 
nity, before any individual of the fpecies was 
formed : That this idea is the exemplar or 
pattern, according to which the Deity formed 
the individuals of the fpecies : That every in- 
dividual of the fpecies participates of this idea, 
which conftitutes its eflence ; and that this idea 
is likewife an objed of the human intellect, 
when, by due abftraftion, we difcern it to be 
one in all the individuals of the fpecies. 

Thus the idea of every fpecies, though one 
and immutable, might be confidered in three 
different views or refpecls ; firjl.^ as having an 
eternal exiftence before there was any indivi- 
dual of the fpecies ; fecondly', as exifting in 
every individual of that fpecies, without divi- 
fion or multiplication, and making the eifence 
of the fpecies ; and, thirdly^ as an object of 
intellect and of fcience in man. 

Such I take to be the do6trine of Plato, as 
far as I am able to comprehend it. His difciple 
Aristotle rejedted the firft of thefe views of 
ideas as vifionary, but ditfered Httle from his 
mafter with regard to the tv/o lad. He did 
not admit the exiftence of univerfal natures an- 
tecedent to the exiftence of individuals ; but he 
held, that every individual confifts of matter 
and form : That the form (which I take to be 
what Plato calls the idea) is common to all 
the individuals of the fpecies, and that the hu- 
man intellect is fitted to receive the forms of 
things as objects of contemplation. Such pro- 
found fpeculations about the nature of univer- 
fals, we find even in the firft ages of philofophy. 
I wifh I could make them more intelligible to 
myfelf and to the reader. 



The divifion of univerfals into five clalTes ; C H A P. 
to wit, genus, fpecies, fp^c^fic difference, pro- ^^■ 
perties, and accidents, is likew'fe very ancient, ^^ ' 
and I conceive was borrowed by the Peripate- 
tics from the Pythagorean fchcoL 

Porphyry has given us a very diftinft trea- 
tife upon thefe, as an introduction to Aristo- 
tle's categories. But he has omitted the in- 
tricate metaphyfical queflions that were agita- 
ted about their nature ; fuch as, Whether gene- 
ra and fpecies do really exifl in nature? Whether 
they are corporeal or incorporeal ? And whe- 
ther they are inherent in the objects of fenfe^ 
or disjoined from them ? Thefe queftions he 
tells us, for brevity's fake, he omits, becaufe 
they are very profound, and require accurate 
difcuffion. It is probable, that thefe queftions 
€xercifed the wits of the Philofophers till about 
the twelfth century. 

About that time, Roscelinus or Rusceli- 
NUSi the mafter of the famous Abei-ard, in- 
troduced a new do£trine, that there is nothing 
univerfal but words or names. For this, and 
other herefies, he was much perfecuted. Howe- 
ver, by his eloquence and abilities, and thofe 
of his difciple Abelard, the dodrine fpread^ 
and thofe who followed it were called Nomi- 
nalifts. His antagonifts, who held that there 
are things that are really univerfal, were called 
Realifts. The fcholaftic Philofophers, from 
the beginning of the twelfth century, were di- 
vided into thefe two feds. Some few took a 
middle road between the contending parties. 
That univeifality, which the Realifts held to be 
in things themfelves, Nominalifls in name only. 
They held to be neither in things nor in names 
only, but in our conceptions. On this ac- 

VoL. II. L count 

146 ESSAY V. 

C H A P. count they were called Conceptualifls : But 
^^- being expofed to the batteries of both the op- 
'pofite parties, they made no great figure. 

When the fe£t: of Nominahfts was like to 
expire, it received new life and fpirit from 
Occam, the difciple of Scotus, in the four- 
teenth century. Then the difpute about uni- 
verfals, a parte ret, w-as revived with the great- 
eft animofity in the fchools of Britain, France, 
and Germany, and carried on, not by argu- 
ments only, but by bitter reproaches, blows, 
and bloody affrays, until the doctrines of Lu- 
ther and the other Reformers turned the at- 
tention of the learned word to more important 

After the revival of learning, Mr. Hobbes 
adopted the opinion of the Nominalifts. Hu- 
man nature, chap. 5. fe6t. 6. "It is plain, 
" therefore, fays he, that there is nothing uni- 
*' verfal but names." And in his Leviathan, 
part I. chap. 4. " There being nothing uni- 
" verfal but names, proper names bring to 
*' mind one thing only 5 univerfals recal any 
" one of many." 

Mr. Locke, according to the divifion before 
mentioned, I think, may be accounted a Con- 
ceptualift. He does not m.aintain that there 
are things that are univerfal ; but that we have 
general or univerfal ideas which we form by 
abftraftion ; and this power of forming abftraO: 
and general ideas, he conceives to be that 
which makes the chief diftinclion in point of 
underftanding between men and brutes. 

Mr. Locke's doftrine about abftraftion has 
been combated by two very powerful antago- 
nifts, Bifhop Berkeley and Mr. Hume, who 
have taken up the opinion of the Nominalifts. 



The former thinks, " That the opinion, thafCHAP. 

** the mind hath a power of forming abftract ^^• 

" ideas, or notions of things, has had a chief 

" part in rendering fpeculation intricate and 

" perplexed, and has occafioned innumerable 

*' errors and difficulties in almoft all parts of 

*' knowledge.'* That, " abftraft ideas are 

" like a fine and fubtile net, which has mife- 

*' rably perplexed and entangled the minds of 

" men, with this peculiar circumftance, that 

" by how much the finer and more curious 

" was the wit of any man, by fo much the 

** deeper was he like to be enfnared, and fafter 

" held therein." That " among all the falfe 

" principles that have obtained in the world, 

*' there is none hath a more wide , influence 

" over the thoughts of fpeculative men than 

*' this of abftraft general ideas.'* 

The good Bifhop therefore, in twenty-four 
pages of the Introduction to his Principles of 
Human Knowledge, encounters this principle 
with a zeal proportioned to his apprehenfion of 
its mahgnant and extenfive influence. 

That the zeal of the fceptical Philofopher 
againft abftract ideas was almoft equal to that 
of the Bifliop, appears from his words, Trea- 
tife of Human Nature, book 1. part i. fed. 7. 
*' A very material queftion has been ftarted 
*' concerning abftra6t or general ideas, whe- 
" ther they be general or particular in the 
*' mind's conception of them ? A great Philo- 
" fopher (he means Dr. Berkeley) has dif- 
*' puted the received opinion in this particular, 
'* and has aiferted, that all general ideas are 
*' nothing but particular ones annexed to a 
*' certain term, which gives them a more ex- 
*' tenfive fignification, and makes them recal 
La " upon 



" upon occafion other individuals, which are 
*' fimilar to them. As I look upon this to be 
" one of the greated and moll valuable difco- 
" veries that have been made of late years in 
" the republic of letters, I fnall here endea- 
" vour to confirm it by fame arguments, 
" wliich I hope will put it beyond all doubt 
" and controverfy." 

I {hall make an end of this fubject, with 
fome reflections on what has been faid ujx>n it 
by thefe two eminent Philofophers. 

i7>/'?, I apprehend that we cannot, with pro- 
priety, be faid to have abftratt and general 
ideas, either in the popular or in the philofo- 
phical fenfe of that word. In the popular fenfe 
an idea is a thought ; it is the a<5t of the mind 
in thinking, or in conceiving any object. This 
act of the mind is always an individual act, and 
therefore there can be no general idea in this 
fenfe. In the philofophical fenfe, an idea is an 
image in the mind, or in the brain, which in 
Mr. Locke's fyllem is the immediate object of 
thought; in the fyftem of Berkeley and 
Hume the only object of thought. I believe 
there are no ideas of this kind, and therefore 
no abftract general ideas. Indeed, if there 
were really fuch images in the mind, or in the 
brain, they could not be general, becaufe 
every thing that really exifts is an individual. 
Univerfals are neither ads of the mind, nor 
images in the mind. 

As therefore there are no general ideas in 
either of the fenfes in which the word idea is 
ufed by the moderns, Berkeley and Hume 
have in this queflion an advantage over Mr. 
Locke ; and their arguments againft him are 
good ad homiimn. They faw farther than he 



did into the juft ccnfequences of the hypothefisC H A P- 
concerning ideas, which was common to them 
and to him ; and they reafoned juftly from this 
hypothefis, when they concluded from it, that 
there is neither a material world, nor any fuch 
power in the human mind as that of ab- 

A triangle, in general, or any other uni- 
Verfal, might be called an idea by a Platoniil; ; 
but, in the ftyle of modern philofophy, it is 
not an idea, nor do we ever afcribe to ideas 
the properties of triangles. It is never faid of 
any idea, that it has three fides and three an- 
gles. We do not fpeak of equilateral, ifofce- 
les, or fcalene ideas, nor of right angled, 
aicute angled, or obtufe angled ideas. And 
if thefe attributes do not belong to ideas, it 
follows neceffarily, that a triangle is not an 
idea. The fame reafoning may be applied to 
every other univerfal. 

Ideas are faid to have a real exiftence in the 
mind, at leaft, while we think of them ; but 
univerfals have no real exiftence. V/hen we 
afcribe exiftence to them, it is not an exif- 
fence in time or place, but exiftence in fome 
individual fubjeft ; and this exiftence means 
no more but that they are truly attributes of 
fuch a fubjett. Their exiftence is nothing but 
predicability, or the capacity of being attribu- 
ted to a fubje£l. The name of predicables, 
which was given them in ancient philofophy, 
is that which moft properly exprefles their na- 

2. I think it muft be granted, in the fccond 
place, that univerfals cannot be the objeds of 
imagination, when we take that word in its 
ftrid and proper fenfe. '* I find, fays Ber- 

*• KELEY, 


CHAP." KELEY, " I have a faculty of imagining or 
" reprefenting to myfelf the ideas of thofe 

particular things I have perceived, and of 
" varioully compounding and dividing them. 
*' I can imagine a man with two heads, or the 
" upper parts of a man joined to the body of 
*' a horfe. I can imagine the hand, the eye, 
*' the nofe, each by itfelf, abftraded or fepa- 
'' rated from the reft of the body. But then, 
" whatever hand or eye I imagine, it mufl 
*' have fome particular fliape or colour. 
*' Likewife, the idea of a man that I frame to 
^' myfelf mud be either of a white, or a black, 
" or a tawny, a ftraight or a crooked, a tall, 
" or a low, or a middle-fized man." 

I believe every man will find in himfelf what 
this ingenious author found, that he cannot 
imagine a man without colour, or flature, or 

Imagination, as we before obferved, proi- 
perly fignifies a conception of the appearance 
an object would make to the eye, if actually 
feen. An univerfal is not an object of any 
external fenfe, and therefore cannot be ima- 
gined ; but it may be diftinctly conceived. 
When Mr. Pope fays, " the proper iludy of 
*' mankind is man," I conceive his meaning 
diflincllv, thouc^h I neither imagine a black or 
a white, a crooked or a ftraight man. The 
diftin£tion between conception and imaginati- 
on is real, though it be too often overlooked, 
and the words taken to be fynonimous. I can 
conceive a thing that is impoflible, but I can- 
not diftinftly imagine a thing that is impofli- 
ble. I can conceive a propofition or a demon- 
Itration, but I cannot imagine either. I can 
ponceive underftanding and will, virtue and 



vice, and other attributes of mind, but I can- ^ ^J^ ^* 
not imagine them. In like manner, I can 
diftinftly conceive univerlals, but I cannot 
imagine them. 

As to the manner how we conceiv'^e univer- 
fals, I confefs my ignorance. I know not how 
I hear, or fee, or remember, and as little do 
I know how I conceive things that have no ex- 
iftence. In all our original faculties, the fa- 
bric and manner of operation is, I apprehend, 
beyond our comprehenfion, and perhaps is 
perfedly underflood by him only who made 

But we ought not to deny a facl of which 
we are confcious, though we know not how 
it is brought about. And I think we may be 
certain that univerfals are not conceived by 
means of images of them in our minds, be- 
caufe there can be no image of an univerfal. 

3. It feems to me, that on this queftionMr. 
Locke and his two antagonifts have divided 
the truth between them. He faw very clearly, 
that the power of forming abftrad and general 
conceptions is one of the mod diftinguifhing 
powers of the human mind, and puts a fpecific 
difference between man and the brute creati- 
on. But he did not fee that this power is per- 
fectly irreconcileable to his dodrine concern- 
ing ideas. 

His opponents faw this inconfiftency ; but 
inflead of rejecting the hypothefis of ideas, 
they explain away the power of abftraction, 
and leave no fpecific diflinclion between the 
human underftanding and that of brutes. 

4. Berkeley, in his reafoning againft ab- 
ftraft general ideas, feems unwillingly or un- 

153 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP, warily to grant all that is neceffary to fupport 
^- abftracl and general conceptions. 

^-^^""^^ " A man, he fays, may confider a figure 
'* merely as triangular, without attending to 
" the particular qualities of the angles, or re- 
" lations of the fides. So far he may abflraft. 
" But this will never prove that he can frame 
^' an abftratf. general inGonfiftent idea of a 
" triangle." 

If a man may confider a figure merely a$ 
triangular, he muft have fome conception of 
this objed of his confidcration : For no man 
can confider a thing which he does not con- 
ceive. He has a conception, therefore, of a 
triangular fi.,ure, merely as fuch. I know no 
more that is meant by an abftracl general con- 
ception of a triangle. 

He that confiders a figure merely as trian- 
gular, mufl underftand what is meant by the 
word triangular. If to the conception he joins 
to this word, he adds any particular quality of 
angles or relation of fides, he mifunderftands 
it, and does not confider the figure merely a$ 
triangular. Whence I think it is evident, 
that he who confiders a figure merely as tri- 
angular muft have the conception of a trian- 
gle, abftrading from any quality of angles or 
relation of fides. 

The Biftiop, in like manner, grants, " That 
" we may confider Plter fo far forth as man, 
" or fo far forth as animal, without framing 
" the forementioned abftracl idea, in as much 
" as all that is perceived is not confidered." 
It m.ay here be obferved, that he who confiders 
Peter fo far forth as man^ or fo far forth as 
a;nimail, muft conceive the meaning of thofe 
abftrad general words man and onimal^ and 



he who conceives the meaning of them, hasC H A P. 
an abftract general conception. ^^^• 

From thefe conceflions, one would be apt to 
conclude that the Bifhop thinks that we can 
iibilraci:, but that we cannot frame abflract 
ideas ; and in this I fliould agree with him. 
But I cannot reconcile his concellions with the 
general principle he lays down before. " To 
'" be plain," fays he, "• I deny that I can ab- 
" ftracl one fron\ another, or conceive fepa- 
" rately thofe qualities which it is impofTible 
" fliould exift fo feparated.'* This appears to 
me inconfiftent with the concellions above 
mentioned, and inconfident with experience. 

If we can confider a figure merely as trian- 
gular, without attending to the particular qua- 
lity of the angles or relation of the fides, this, 
I think, is conceiving feparately things which 
cannot exifh fo feparated : For furely a triangle 
cannot exift without a particular quality of an- 
gles and relation of fides. And it is well 
known from experience, that a man may have 
a diftin6t conception of a triangle, without 
having any conception or knowledge of many 
of the properties without which a triangle can- 
not exift. 

Let us next ccnfider the Bifliop's notion of 
generalifing. He does not abfolutely deny 
that there are general ideas, but only that 
there are abftrad general ideas. " An idea,** 
he fays, " which, confidered in itfelf, is par- 
" ticular, becomes general, by being made to 
" reprefent or ftand for all other particular 
" ideas of the fame fort. To make this plain 
" by an example, Suppofe a Geometrician is 
'* demonftrating the method of cutting a line 
" in two equal parts. He draws, for inftance, 

'• a black 

154 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP." a black line of an inch in length. This, 
^*- " which is in itfelf a particular line, is never- 
thelefs, with regard to its fignification, ge- 
" neral ; fmce, as it is there ufed, it repre- 
" fents all particular lines whatfoever ; fo that 
" what is demonllrated of it, is demon- 
" ftrated of all lines, or, in other words, 
" of a line in general. And as that par- 
" ticular line becomes general by be- 
" ing made a fign, fo the name Ime, which, 
" taken abiolutely, is particular, by being a 
" fign, is made general." 

Here I obferve, that when a particular idea 
is made a fign to reprefent and ftand for all of 
a fort, this fuppofes a diftindlion of things into 
forts or fpecies. To be of a fort implies hav- 
ing thofe attributes which characterife the fort, 
and are common to all the individuals that be- 
long to it. There cannot, therefore, be a fort 
without general attributes, nor can there be 
any conception of a fort without a conception 
of thofe general attributes which diftinguilh it. 
The conception of a fort, therefore, is an ab- 
flracl general conception. 

The particular idea cannot furely be made a 
fign of a thing of which we have no concepti- 
on. 1 do not fay that you mud have an idea 
of the fort, but furely you ought to under- 
fiand or conceive what it means, when you 
make a particular idea a reprefsntative of it, 
othervvife your particular idea reprefents, you 
know not what. 

When I demonflrate any general property of 
a triangle, fuch as, that the three angles are 
equal to two right angles, I muft underftand 
or conceive diltinclly what is common to all 
triangles. I mufl: diftinguiOa the common at- 


tributes of all triangles from thofe wherein par- CHAP, 
ticular triangles may differ. And if I conceive '^^• 
diflinftly what is common to all triangles, 
without confounding it with w^hat is not fo, 
this is to form a general conception of a trian- 
gle. And without this, it is impollible to know 
that the demonftration extends to all triangles. 

The Bifhop takes particular notice of this 
argument, and makes this anfwer to it. 
" Though the idea 1 have in view, whilft I 
" make the demonftration, be, for inftance, 
*' that of an ifofceles rectangular triangle, 
" whofe fides are of a determinate length, I 
*' may neverthelefs be certain that it extends 
" to all other redilinear triangles, of what 
" fort or bignefs foever ; and that becaufe 
" neither the right angle, nor the equality or 
" determinate length of the fides, are at all 
" concerned in the demonftration." 

But if he do not, in the idea he has in view, 
clearly diftinguifh what is common to all tri- 
angles from what is not, it would be impoffi- 
ble to difcern whether fomething that is not 
common be concerned in the demonftration or 
not. In order, therefore, to perceive that the 
demonftration extends to all triangles, it is 
neceifary to have a diftinft conception of what 
is common to all triangles, excluding from that 
conception all that is not common. And this 
is all I underftand by an abftract general con- 
ception of a triangle. 

Berkeley catches an advantage to his fide 
of the queftion, from what Mr. Locke ex- 
preffes (too ftrongly indeed) of the difficulty 
of framing abftract general ideas, and the pains 
and (kill neceflary for that purpofe. From 
which the Bifhop infers, that a thing fo diffi- 


156 ESSAY V. 

C HA P. cult cannot be neceflary for communkation by 
^'- language, which is fo eafy and familiar to all 
^^-^^"'^''^ forts of men. 

There may be fome abftraft and general 
conceptions that are difficult, or even beyond 
the reach of perfons of weak undtrrtanding ; 
but there are innumerable, which are not be- 
yond the reach of children. It is impoffible to 
learn language without acquiring general con- 
ceptions ; for there cannot be a fmgle fentence 
without them, I believe the forming thefe, 
and being able to articulate the founds of lan- 
guage^ make up the whole diincuky that chil- 
dren find in learning language at firlfc. 

But this difficulty, we fee, they are able to 
overcome fo early as not to remember the pains 
it cou them. They have the ftrongeft induce- 
ment to exert all their labour and fkill, in or- 
der to underftand, and to be underftaod j and 
they no doubt do fo. 

The labour of forming abllracl notions, is 
the labour of learning to fpeak, and to under- 
ftand what is fpoken. As the words of every 
language, excepting a few proper names, are 
general words, the minds of children are fur- 
nifhed with general conceptions, in proportion 
as they learn the meaning of general words. 
I believe mofl men have hardly any general no- 
tions but thofe which are expreiTed by the ge- 
neral words they hear and ufe in converfation. 
The meaning of fome of thefe is learned by a 
definition, vvhich at once conveys a diflincb 
and accurate general conception. The mean- 
ing of other general words we collect, by a 
kind of induction, from the way in which we 
fee them ufed on various cccafions by thofe 
who underftand the language. Of thefe our 



conception is often lefs diRind, and in diffe-C HA P. 
rent perfons is perhaps not perteftly the fame. ' ' 

^' Is it not a hard thing, fays the Bifiiop, 
** that a couple of children cannot prate toge- 
" ther of their fugar plumbs and rattles, and 
'* the reft of their little trinkets, till they 
'^ have firft tacked together numberlefs incon- 
" fiftencies, and fo formed in their minds ab- 
" draft general ideas, and annexed them to 
" every common name they make ufe of." 

However hard a thing it may be, it is an 
evident truth, that a couple of children, even 
about their fugar-plumbs and their rattles, 
cannot prate fo as to underftand, and be un- 
derftood, until they have learned to conceive 
the meaning of many general words, and this, 
I think, is to have general conceptions. 

5. Having confidered the fentiments of Bi- 
fhop Berkeley on this fubjedl, let us next at- 
tend to thofe of Mr. Hume, as thev are ex- 
preffed, part i. fett. 7. Treatife of Human 
Nature. He agrees perfeftly with the Bifhop, 
" That all general ideas are nothing but par- 
" ticular ones annexed to a certain term, 
" which gives them a more extenfive fignifi- 
" cation, and makes them recal upon occafion 
" other individuals which are fimilar to them. 
" A particular idea becomes general, by 
" being annexed to a general term ; that is, 
'* to a term, which, from a cuftomary con- 
" jundion, has a relation to many other par- 
" ticular ideas, and readily recals them in the 
*' imagination. Abftrad: ideas are therefore 
'' in themfclves individual, however they m.ay 
" become general in their reprefentation. The 
" image in the mind is only that of a particu- 
" lar objetl, though the application of it in 

" our 


C H A P. «' our reafoning be the fame as if it was uni- 
^'J " verfal.'^ 
*"'*"'"**' Although Mr. Hume looks upon this to be 
one of the greateft and moft valuable difcove- 
ries that has been made of late years in the 
republic of letters, it appears to be no other 
than the opinion of the Nominalifts, about 
which fo much difpute was held from the be- 
ginning of the twelfth century down to the re- 
formation, and which was afterwards fupport- 
ed by Mr. Hobbes. I fliall briefly confider 
the arguments, by which Mr. Hume hopes to 
have put it beyond all doubt and controverfy. 

Fir/i, He endeavours to prove, by three ar- 
guments, that it is utterly impoffible to con- 
ceive any quantity or quality, without forming 
a precife notion of its degrees. 

This is indeed a great undertaking ; but 
if he could prove it, it is not fuflicient for his 
purpofe ; for two reafons. 

Fity^, Becaufe there are many attributes of 
things, befides quantity and quality ; and it is 
incumbent upon him to prove, that it is im- 
poffible to conceive any attribute, without 
forming a precife notion of its degree. Each 
of the ten categories of Aristotle is a genus, 
and mav be an attribute : And if he ihculd 
prove of two of them, to wit, quantity and 
quality, that there can be no general concep- 
tion of them ; there remain eight behind, of 
which this mull: be proved. 
The other reafon is, becaufe, though it were im- 
poffibleto conceive any quantity or quality, with- 
out forming a precife notion of its degree, it 
does not follow that it is impoffible to have a 
general conception even of quantity and qua- 
lity. The conception of a pound troy is th? 



conception of a quantity, and of the precife de-C H A P. 
gree of that quantity ; but it is- an abflra6t ge- VI. 
neral conception notwithflanding, becaufe it ' ^^ 
may be the attribute of many individual bodies, 
and of many kinds of bodies. He ought there- 
fore to have proved, that we cannot conceive 
quantity or quahty, or any other attribute, 
without joining it infeparably to fome indivi- 
dual fubjeft. 

This remains to be proved, which will be 
found no eafy matter. For inftance, I con- 
ceive what is meant by a Japancfe as diflinclly 
as what is meant by an Englifhman or a 
Frenchman. It is true, a Japanefe is neither 
quantity nor quality, but it is an attribute 
common to every individual of a populous na- 
tion. I never faw an individual of that nation, 
and, if I can truft my confcioufnefs, the gene- 
ral term does not lead me to imagine one in- 
dividual of the fort as a reprefentative of all 

Though Mr. Hume, therefore, undertakes 
much, yet, if he could prove all he undertakes 
to prove, it would by no means be fufficient 
to fliew that we have no abftratt general con- 

Faffing this, let us attend to his arguments 
for proving this extraordinary pofition, that it 
is impoffible to conceive any quantity or qua- 
lity, without forming a precife notion of its 

The firfl: argument is, that it is impoffible to 
diftinguifh things that are not aclually fepara- 
ble. " The precife length of a line is not 
•different or diftinguifhable from the line. 

I have before endeavoured to fhew, that 
things infeparable in their nature may be diftin- 


tGo ESSAY V.- 

C H A P. guifhed In our conception. And we need go 
}}^ no farther to b^ convinced of this, than the in- 
flance here brought to prove the contrary,- 
The precife length of a line, he fays, is not 
diitinguiihable from the line. When I fay, 
ibis is a line, I fay and meaii one thing. When 
I fay it is a line of three inches, I fay and mean 
another thing. If this be not to diltinguifh the 
precife length of the line from the line, I know 
not u'hat it is to diftinguifii. 

Second argument. ^' Every objeft of fenfe, 
" that is, every impreifion, is an individual, 
" having its determinate degrees of quantity 
*' and quality : But whatever is true of the 
" impreffion is true of the idea, as they dlfl'er 
*' in nothing but their ftrength and vivacity.'' 

The conchifion in this argument is indeed 
juftly drawn from the premifes. If it be true 
that ideas difi'er in nothing from objefts of fenfe 
but in ftrength and vivacity, as it muft be 
granted that all the objefls of fenfe are indivi- 
duals, it will certainly follow that all ideas are 
individuals. Granting therefore the juftnefs 
of this conclufion, I beg leave to draw two other 
conciufions from the fame premifes^ which 
will follow no lefs neceffarily. 

Firji, If ideas differ from the objefls of fenfe 
only in flrength and vivacity, it will follow, 
that the idea of a Hon is a lion of lefs ftrength 
and vivacity. And hence may arife a very im- 
portant queftion, Vv-'hether the idea of a lion 
raay not tear in pieces, and devour the ideas of 
fljeep, oxen, and horfes, and even of men, 
women, and children ? 

Secondly^ If ideas differ only in ftrength and 
vivacity from the objeds of fenfe, it will fol- 


low, that objeds, merely conceived, arenotCHAP. 
idea's ; for fuch objefts differ from the objects '^• 
of fenfe in refpefts of a very different nature 
from ftrength and vivacity. Every objeft of 
fenfe muff have a real exiffence, and time and 
place : But things merely conceived may nei- 
ther have exiftence, nor time nor place ; and 
therefore, though there fhould be no abffradt 
ideas, it does not follow, that things abftra£t 
and general may not be conceived. 

The third argument is this : " It is a princi- 
" pie generally received in philofophy, that 
*' every thing in nature is individual ; and 
*' that it is utterly abfurd to fuppofe a triangle 
*' really exiftent, which has no precife propor- 
'' tion of fides and angles. If this, therefore, 
*' be abfurd in fadl and reality, it muft be ab- 
*' furd in idea, fmce nothing of v/hich we can 
*' form a clear and diftinft idea is abfurd or 
«« impoffible.'* 

I acknowledge it to be impoffible, that a tri- 
angle fhould really exift which has no precife 
proportion of fides and angles ; and impoffible 
that any being fhould exift which is not an indi- 
vidual being ; for, I think, a being and ail 
individual being mean the fame thing : But 
that there can be ho attributes common to many 
individuals, I do not acknowledge. Thus, ta 
many figures that really exift, it may be com- 
mon that they are triangles ; and to many bo- 
dies that exift, it may be common that they are 
fluid. Triangle and fluid are not beings, they 
are attributes of beings. 

As to the principle here affurned, that no- 
thing of which we can form a clear and dillind 
idea is abfurd or impoffible, I refer to what 

Vol. II, M was 

i62 E S S A Y V. 

CH A P. was faid upon it, chap. 3. Eflay 4. It is evi- 
^yb_J dent, that in every mathematical demonflra- 
tion, ad abfurdu?n, of which kind almoft one 
half of mathematics confifts, we are required 
to fuppofe, and confequently to conceive a 
thing that is impollible. From that fuppofition 
we reafon, until wt come to a conclufion that 
is not only impoffible but abfurd. From this 
we infer, that the propofition fuppofed at firfl 
is impoffible, and therefore that its contradic- 
tory is true. 

As this is the nature of all demonflrations, 
ad ahfurdum^ it is evident, (I do not fay that 
we can have a clear and diflinft idea,) but 
that we can clearly and diilinclly conceive 
things impoffible. 

The reft of Mr. Hume's difcourfe upon this 
fubjecl is employed in explaining how an indi- 
vidual idea, annexed to a general term, may 
ferve all the purpofes in reafoning, which have 
been afcribed to abftracl general ideas. 

" When we have found a refemblance 
*^^ among feveral objefts that often occur to us, 
*' we apply the fame to all of them, whatever 
*' differences we may obferve in the degree of 
" their quantity and quality, and whatever 
*' other differences may appear among them. 
" After we have acquired a cuftom of this 
*' kind, the hearing of that name revives the 
" idea of one of thefe objects, and makes the 
*' imagination conceive it, with all its circum- 
** fiances and proportions." But along with 
this idea, there is a readinefs to furvey any 
other of the individuals to which the name be- 
longs, and to obferve, that no conclufion be 
formed contrary to any of them. If any fuch 



conclufion is formed, thofe Individual ideasCHAP. 
•which contradi£b it, immediately crowd in upon ^^* 
us, and make us perceive the falfehood of the' 
propofition. If the mind fuggefl not always 
thefe ideas upon occafion, it proceeds from 
fome imperfetlion in its faculties ; and fuch a 
one as is often the fource of falfe reafoning 
and fophlftry. 

This is in fubflance the way in which he ac- 
counts for what he calls " the foregoing para- 
dox, that fome ideas are particular in their 
nature, but general in their reprefentation." 
Upon this account I ihall make fome remarks. 
I. He allows that we find a refemblance 
among feveral objefts, and fuch a refemblance 
as leads us to apply the fame name to all of 
them. This conceffion is fufficient to fhew 
that we have general conceptions. There can 
be no refemblance in objeds that have no com- 
mon attribute ; and if there be attributes be- 
longing in common to feveral objects, and in 
man a faculty to obferve and conceive thefe, 
and to give names to them, this is to have ge- 
neral conceptions. 

I believe indeed we may have an indiftin£t 
perception of refemblance, without knowing 
wherein it lies. Thus, I may fee a refemblance 
between one face and another, when I cannot 
diftinclly fay in what feature they refemble : 
But by analyfmg the two faces, and comparing 
feature with feature, I may form a diifindt no- 
tion of that which is common to both. A 
painter, being accuftomed to an analyfis of 
this kind, would have formed a diftind notion 
of this refemblance at firfl fight ; to another 
man it may require fome attention. 

M 2 There- 

i64 E S S A Y V, 

There is therefore an indiflincl notion of re- 
femblance when we compare the objects only 
in grofs ; and this 1 beheve brute animals may 
have. There is alfo a diilinct notion of re- 
femblance, when we analyfe the obje£ls inta 
their different attributes, and perceive them to- 
agree in fome, while they differ in others. It 
is in this cafe only that we give a name to the 
attributes wherein they agree, which muft be 
a common name, becaufe the thing fignified 
by it is commoh. Thus, when I compare 
cubes of different matter, I perceive them to 
have this attribute in common, that they are 
comprehended under fix equal fquares ; and 
this attribute only, is fignified by applying the 
name of cube to them all. When I compare 
clean linen with fnow, I perceive them to agree 
in colour ; and when I apply the name of 
white to both, this name fignifies neither fnow 
nor clean linen, but the attribute which is 
common to both. 

2. The author fays, that when we have 
found a refemblance among feveral objects, 
we apply the fame name to all of them. 

It muft here be obferved, that there are two 
kinds of names which the author feems to con- 
found, though they are very different in nature^ 
and in the power they have in language. There 
are proper names, and there are common 
names or appellatives. The firft are the names 
of individuals. The fame proper name is ne- 
ver applied to feveral individuals on account of 
their fimihtude, becaufe the very intention of 
a proper name is to diftinguifh one individual 
from all others ; and hence it is a maxim in 
grammar, that proper names have no plural 



number. A proper name fignifies nothing but CHAP, 
the individual whofe name it is ; and when we ^^• 
apply it to the individual, we neither affirm ^-"'v""' 
nor deny any thing concerning him. 

A common name or appellative is not the 
name of any individual, but a general term, 
fignifying fomething that is or may be common 
to feveral individuals. Common names there- 
fore fignify common attributes. Thus, when 
I apply the name ot fon or brother to feveral 
perfons, this fignifies and affirms that this at- 
tribute is common to all of them. 

From this it is evident, that the applying the 
fame name to feveral individuals, on account 
of their refemblance, can, in confiflence with 
grammar and common fenfe, mean nothing 
elfe than the expreffing by a general term fome- 
thing that is common to thofe individuals, and 
which therefore may be truly affirmed of them 

3. The author fays, '' It is certain that we 
*' form the idea of individuals, whenever wc 
*' ufe any general term. The word raifes up 
*' an individual idea, and makes the imagina- 
*' tion conceive it, with all its particular cir- 
^' cumftances and proportions." 

This fa6i: he takes a great deal of pains to ac- 
count for, from the effect of cuflom. 

But the fact fhould be afcertained before we 
take pains to account for it. I can fee no rea- 
fon to believe the fact ; and I think a farmer 
can talk of his fheep, and his black cattle, 
without conceiving, in his imagination one in- 
dividual, with all its circumfcances and pro- 
portions. If this be true, the whole of his 
theory of general ideas falls to the ground. 


i66 E S S A Y V. 

C H A P.To me it appears, that when a general term is 
^^- well underftood, it is only by accident if it 
~^~ fuggeft fome individual of the kind ; but thi§ 
effe6: is by no means conftant. 

I underftand perfectly what Mathematicians 
call a line of the fifth order ; yet I never con- 
ceived in my imagination any one of the kind 
in all its circumllances and proportions. Sir 
Isaac Newton hrfl formed a diftincl general 
conception of lines of the third order ; and af- 
terwards., by great labour and deep penetra- 
tion found out and defcribed the particular 
fpecies comprehended under that general term. 
According to Mr. Hume's theory, he mufl 
firil have been acquainted with the particulars, 
and then have learned by cullom to apply one 
general name to all of them. 

The author obferves, " That the idea of an 
*' equilateral triangle of an inch perpendicu- 
" lar, may ferve us in talking of a figure, a 
" rectilinear figure, a regular figure, a trian- 
," gle, and an equilateral triangle." 

I anfwer. The man that ufes thefe general 
terms, either underflands their meaning, or 
he does not. If he does not underftand their 
meaning, all his talk about them will be found 
only without fenfe, and the particular idea 
mentioned cannot enable him to fpeak of 
them with underftanding. If he underftands 
the meaning of the general terms he will 
find no ufe for the particular idea. 

4. He tells us gravely, " That in a globe of 
" white marble the figure and the colour 
" are undiftinguiihable, and are in effed the 
" fame.'* How foolifh have mankind been 
to give different names, in all ages and in 




all languages, to things undiflinguifhable,^ HAP. 
and in effect the fame ? Henceforth, in all ,^JfLj 
books of fcience and of entertainment, we 
may fubftitute figure for colour, and co- 
lour for figure. By this we fhall make 
numberlefs curious difcoveries without dan- 
ger of error. 




Of judgment in generaL 

UD G IN G is an operation of the mind fo^ 
familiar to every who hath under- 
ftanding, and its name is fo common and fo 
well underftood, that it needs no definition. 

As it is impoffible by a definition to give a 
notion of colour to a man who never favv co- 
lours ; fo it is impoffible by any definition to 
give a diftinct notion of judgment to a man 
who has not often judged, and who is not ca- 
pable of reflefting attentively upon this aft of 
his mind. The befl ufe of a definition is to 
prompt him to that refieciion ; and without it 
the befl definition will be apt to miflead him. 

The definition commonly given of judgment, 
by the more ancient writers in logic, was, 
that it is an aft of the mind, whereby one thing 
is affirmed or denied of another. ' I believe this 
is as good a definition of it as can be given. 
Why 1 prefer it to fome later definitions, will 
afterwards appear. Without pretending to 
give any other, I fhall make two remarks upon 
it, and then offer fome general obfervations on 
this fubjeft. 

I, It 


1. It is true, that it is by affirmation or denial CHAP, 
that we exprefs our judgments ; but there may , 
be judgment which is not expreffed. It is a 
folitary act of the mind, and the expreffion of 
it by affirmation or denial is not at all eifential 
to it. It may be tacit, and not exprefTed, 
Nay, it is well known that men may judga 
contrary to what they affi.rm or deny ; the de- 
finition therefore muil be underflood of mental 
affirmation or denial, which indeed is only 
another name for judgm.ent. 

2. Affirmation and denial is very often the 
expreffion of tcflimony, which is a different 
a£l of the mind, and ought to be diftinguifhed 
from judgment. 

A JLidge afks of a witnefs what he knows of 
fuch a matter to which he was an eye or ear 
witnefs. He anfwers, by affirming or denying 
fomething. But his anfwer does not exprefs 
his judgment ; it is his teftimony. Again, I 
afk a man his opinion in a matter of fcience or 
of criticifm. His anfwer is not teftimony ; it 
is the expreffion of his judgment. 

Teftimony is a fecial aft, and it is effential 
to it to be expreffed by words or figns. A tacit 
teftimony is a contradidion : But there is no 
<:ontradiction in a tacit judgment ; it is com- 
plete without being expreffed. 

Jn teftimony a man pledges his veracity for 
what he affirms ; fo that a falfe teftimony is a 
.lie: But a wro];g,j,ud^ment is not a lie; it is 
only an error. ".., -; 

I believe, in all languages teftimony and 
judgment are expreffed by the fame form of 
fpeech. A propofition affirmative or negative, 
with a verb in what is called the indicative 
mood, expreffes both. To diftinguilh them 



C H A Pby the form of fpeech, it would be neceflary 
that verbs fliould have two indicative moods, 
*one for teftimony, and another to exprefs 
judgment. I know not that this is found in 
any language. And the reafon is, (not furcly 
that the vulgar cannot diftinguifh the two, for 
every man knows the difference between a lie 
and an error of judgment), but that, from the 
matter and circumftances, we can eafily fee 
whether a man intends to give his teftimony, 
or barely to exprefs his judgment. 

Although men muft have judged in many 
cafes before tribunals of juftice were erected, 
yet it is very probable that there were tribunals 
before men began to fpeculate about judgment, 
and that the word may be borrowed from the 
practice of tribunals. As a judge, after taking 
the proper evidence, paifes fentcnce in a caufe, 
and that fentence is called his judgment ; fo the 
mind, with regard to whatever is true or falfe, 
paifes fentence, or determines according to 
the evidence that appears. Some kinds of evi- 
dence leave no room for doubt* Sentence is 
pafled immediately, without fecking or hear- 
ing any contrary evidence, becaufe the thing 
is certain and notorious. In other cafes, there 
is room for weighing evidence on both fides 
before fentence is pafled. The analogy be- 
tv/een a tribunal of juftice and this inward tri- 
bunal of the mind, is too obvious to efcape 
the notice of any man who ever appeared be- 
fore a judge. And it is probable, that the 
word judgment, as well as many other words 
we ufe in fpeaking of this operation of min(J, 
are grounded on this analogy. 

Having premifed thefe things, that it may 
be clearly underftood what I mean by judg- 


ment, I proceed to make fome general obferr CHAP, 
vations concerning it. I- 

ivVy?, Judgment is an a£l of the mind fpe-* 
clfically different from fmiple apprehenfion, or 
the bare conception of a thing. It would be 
unneceffary to obferve this, if fome Philofo- 
phers had not been led by their theories to a 
contrary opinion. 

Although there can be no judgnient without 
a conception of the things about which we 
judge; yet conception may be without any 
judgment. Judgment can be expreffed by a 
proportion only, and a proportion is a com- 
plete fentence; but fimple apprehenfion may 
be expreffed by a word or words, which make 
no complete fentence. When fimple appre- 
henfion is employed about a propofition, every 
man knows that it is one thing to apprehend 
a propofition, that is, to conceive what it 
means; but it is quite another thing to judge 
it to be true or falfe. 

It is felf-evident, that every judgment mufl- 
be either true or falfe; but fimple apprehen- 
iion or conception can neither be true nor 
falfe, as was fliewn before. 

One judgment may be contradictory to an- 
other; and it is impoffible for a man to have 
two judgments at the fame time, which he 
perceives to be contradictory. But contradic- 
tory propofitions may be conceived at the fame 
time without any difficulty. That the fun is 
greater than the earth, and that the fun is not 
greater than the earth, are contradidory pro- 
pofitions. He that apprehends the meaning of 
one, apprehends the meaning of both. But 
it is impoffible for him to judge both to be true 
at the fame time. He knows that if the one 


172 ESSAY VI. 

C H A P. is true, the other mufl be falfe. For thefe rea- 
^' fons, i hold it to be certain, that judgment 
and limple apprehenfion are adls of the mind 
fpecifically different. 

Secondly, There are notions or ideas that 
ought to be referred to the faculty of judgment 
as their fource; becaufe, if we had not that 
faculty, they could not enter into our minds j 
and to thofe that have that faculty, and are ca- 
pable of reflecting upon its operations, they 
are obvious and familiar. 

Among thefe we may reckon the notion of 
judgment itfelf ; the notions of a propofition, 
of its fubject, predicate, and copula; of af- 
fimation and negation, of true and falfe, of 
knowledge, belief, difbelief, opinion, affent, 
evidence. From no fource could we acquire 
thefe notions, but from reflecting upon our 
judgments. Relations of things make one 
great clafs of our notions or ideas; and we 
cannot have the idea of any relation without 
fom.e exercife of judgment, as will appear af- 

Thirdly, In perfons come to years of under- 
ftanding, judgment neceflarily accompanies all 
fenfation, perception by the fenfes, confciouf- 
nefs, and memory, but not conception. 

I rellrift this to perfons come to the years 
of underllanding, becaufe it may be a quefti- 
cn, whether infants, in the firfl period of Hfe, 
have any judgment or belief at alL The fame 
queilion may be put with regard to brutes and 
fome idiots. This quefl:ion is foreign to the 
prefent fubjeCt; and I fay nothing here about 
it, but fpeak only of perfons who have the ex- 
ercife of judgment. 



In them it is evident, that a man who feels ^ HAP. 
pain, judges and believes that he is really . _' 
jpained. The man who perceives an object, 
believes that it exifts, and is what he diftinftly 
perceives it to be ; nor is it in his power to 
avoid fuch judgment. And the like may be 
faid of memory, and of confcioufnefs. Whe- 
ther judgment ought to be called a neceifary 
concomitant of thefe operations, or rather a 
part or ingredient of them, I do not difpute; 
but it is certain, that all of them are accom- 
panied with a determination that fomething is 
true or falfe, and a confequent belief. If this 
determination be not judgment, it is an ope-> 
ration that has got no name; for it is not fim-» 
pie apprehenfion, neither is it reafoning; it is 
a mental affirmation or negation; it may be 
expreffed by a proportion affirmative or nega- 
tive, and it is accompanied with the firmed 
belief. Thefe are the chara£teriftics of judg- 
ment; and I muft call it judgment, till I can 
find another name to it. 

The judgments we form, are either of things 
neceffary, or of things contingent. That 
three times three are nine; that the whole is 
greater than a part; are judgments about 
things neceifary. Our affent to fuch neceffary 
proportions is not grounded upon any opera- 
tion of fenfe, of memory, or of confcioufnefs, 
nor does it require their concurrence ; it is un- 
accompanied by any other operation but that 
of conception, which mufl accompany all 
judgment; we may therefore call this judg- 
ment of things neceffary pure judgment. Our 
judgment of things contingent mufl: always 
reft upon fome other operation of the mind, fuch 
us fenfe, or memory, or confcioufnefs, or cre- 



C H A P.dit In teflimony, which is itfelf grounded upon 
^- fenfe. 

That I now write upon a table covered with 
green cloth, is a contingent event, which I 
judge to be mod undoubtedly true. My judg- 
ment is grounded upon my perception, and 
is a neceflary concomitant or ingredient of my 
perception. That I dined with fuch a compa- 
ny yefterday, I judge to be true, becaufc I re- 
member it; and my judgment neceflarily goes 
along with this remembrance, or makes a part 
of it. 

There are many forms of fpeech in common 
language which iliew that the fenfes, memory 
and confcioufnefs, are confidered as judging 
faculties. We fay that a man judges of co- 
lours by his eye, of founds by his ear. We 
fpeak of the evidence of fenfe, the evidence of 
memory, the evidence of confcioufnefs. Evi- 
dence is the ground of judgment, and when 
we fee evidence, it is impoffible not to judge. 

When we fpeak of feeing or remembering 
any thing, we indeed hardly ever add that 
we judge it to be true. But the reafon of this; 
appears to be, that fuch an addition would be 
mere fuperfluity of fpeech, becaufe every one 
knows, that what I fee or remember, 1 mufl 
judge to be true, and cannot do otherwife. 

And for the fame reafon, m fpeaking of any 
thing that is felf evident or flriftly demonflrat- 
ed, we do not fay that we judge it to be true. 
This would be fuperfluity of fpeech, becaufe 
every man knows that we mufl judge that to 
be true which we hold felf-evident or demon- 

When you fay you faw fuch a thing, or that 
you diftindly remember it, or when you fay 



of any propofitlon that it Is felf-evident, or C H A P, 
ftridlly demonftrated, it would be ridiculous 
after this to afk whether you judge it to be true ; 
nor would it be lefs ridiculous in you to inform 
us that you do. It would be a fuperfluity of 
fpeech of the fame kind as if, not content with 
faying that you faw fuch an objedl, you fliould 
add that you faw it with your eyes. 

There is therefore good reafon why, in 
fpeaking or writing, judgment (hould not be 
exprefsly mentioned, when all men know it to 
be neceflarily implied; that is, when there can 
be no doubt. In fuch cafes, we barely men- 
tion the evidence. But when the evidence 
mentioned leaves room for doubt, then, with- 
out any fuperfluity or tautology, we fay we 
judge the thing to be fo, becaufe this is not 
implied in what was faid before. A woman 
with child never fays, that, going fuch a jour- 
ney, Ihe carried her child along with her. We 
know that, while it is in her womb, fhe mufl 
carry it along with her. There are fome ope- 
rations of mind that may be faid to carry judg- 
ment in their womb, and can no more leave it 
behind them than the pregnant woman can 
leave her child. Therefore, in fpeaking of 
fuch operations, it is not exprelTed. 

Perhaps this manner of fpeaking may have 
led Philofophers into the opinion, that in per- 
ception by the fenfes, in memory, and in con- 
fcioufnefs, there is no judgment at all. Be- 
caufe it is not mentioned in fpeaking of thefe 
faculties, they conclude that it does not accom- 
pany them ; that they are only different modes 
of fimple apprehenfion, or of acquiring ideas j 
and that it is no part of their office to judge. 

I ap- 

17^ ESSAY VI. 

C HA P. I apprehend the fame caufe has led Mr. Locke 
^^,,^^ into a notion of judgment which I take to be 
peculiar to him. He thinks that the mind has 
two faculties converfant about truth and falfe- 
hood. Firjl^ knowledge ; and, fecondly, judg- 
ment. In the firft, the perception of the agree- 
ment or difagrecment of the ideas is certain; 
In the fecond, it is not certain, but probable 

According to this notion of judgment, It is 
not by judgment that I perceive that two and 
three make five ; it is by the faculty of know- 
ledge. I apprehend there can be no knowledge 
without judgment, though there may be judg- 
ment without that certainty which we common- 
ly call knowledge. 

Mr. Locke, in another place of his Eflayj 
tells us, " That the notice w-e have by our 
" fenfes of the exiflence of things without uSj 
" though not altogether fo certain as our in- 
*' tuitive knowledge, or the deduftions of our 
" reafon about abilraQ: ideas^ yet is an affu- 
" ranee that deferves the name of knowledge.'* 
I think, by this account of it, and by his de- 
finitions before given of knowledge and judg- 
ment, it deferves as well the name of judgment. 

That I may avoid difputes about the meaning 
of words, I wifli the reader to underfland, 
that I give the name of judgment to every de- 
termination of the mind concerning what is 
true or what is falfe. This, I think, is what 
Logicians, from the days of Aristotle, have 
called judgment. Whether it be called one 
faculty, as I think it has always been, or whe- 
ther a Philofopher chufes to fpht it into two, 
feems not very material. And if it be granted, 
that by our fenfes, our memory and confci- 



oufnefs, we not only have ideas or fiinple ap-C 
prehenfions, but form determinations concern- 
ing what is true, and what is falfe: whether 
thefe determinations ought to be called know- 
ledge or judgment^ is of fmall moment. 

The judgments grounded upon the evidence 
of fenfe, of memory, and of confcioufnefs, 
put all men upon a level. The Philofopher, 
with regard to thefe, has no prerogative above 
the illiterate, or even above the favage. 

Their reliance upon the teftimony of thefe 
faculties is as firm and as well grounded as his. 
His fuperiority is in judgments of another kind ; 
in judgments about things abflra£l and necef- 
fary. And he is unwilling to give the name 
of judgment to that wherein the mod ignorant 
and unimproved of the fpecies are his equals. 

But Philofophers have never been able to 
give any definition of judgment which does not 
apply to the determinations of our fenfes, our 
memory, and confcioufnefs, nor any definition 
of fimple apprehenfion which can comprehend 
thofe determinations. 

Our judgments of this kind are purely the 
gift of Nature, nor do they admit of improve- 
ment by culture. The memory of one man 
may be more tenacious than that of another; 
but both rely with equal affurance upon what 
they diflinctly remember. One man's fight 
may be more acute, or his feehng more deli- 
cate than that of another ; but both give equal 
credit to the difliind teftimony ot their fight 
and touch. 

And as we have this belief by the confti- 
tution of our nature, without any effort of 
our own, fo no effort of ours can overturn it. 

Vol. II. N The 


The Sceptic may perhaps perfuade himfelf 
in general, that he has no ground to believe 
his fenfes or his memory: But, in particular 
cafes that are interefting, his difbelief vaniflies, 
and " he finds himfelf under a neceffity of be- 
lieving both. 

Thefe judgments may, in the fhri^left fenfe, 
be called judgnmits of nature. Nature has 
fubjeded us to them whether we will or not. 
They are neither got, nor can they be loft by 
any ufe or abufe of our faculties ; and it is evi- 
dently neceflary for our prefervation that it 
fliould be fo. For if belief in our fenfes and 
in our memory were to be learned by culture, 
the race of men would perifh before they learned 
this leflbn. It is neceffary to all men for their 
being and prefervation, and therefore is un- 
conditionally given to all men by the Author 
of Nature. 

I acknowledge, that if we were to reft in 
thofe judgments of Nature of which we now 
fpeak, without building others upon them, 
they would not entitle us to the denomination 
of reafonable beings. But yet they ought not 
to be defpifed, for they are the foundation upon 
which the grand fuperftrufture of human 
knowledge muft be raifed. And as in other 
fuperftrudlures the foundation is commonly 
overlooked, fo it has been in this. The more 
fublime attainments of the human mind have 
attradled the attention of Philofophers, while 
they have beftowed but a carelefs glance upon 
the humble foundation on which the whole fa- 
bric reils. 

A fourth obfervation is, that fome exercife 
of judgment is neceflary in the formation of 
all abftradt and general conceptions, whether 



more fimple or more complex ; in dividing, C H A P. 
in defining, and in general, in forming all ^• 
clear and diftinft conceptions of things, which'"* * "^ 
are the only fit materials of reafoning. 

Thefe operations are allied to each other, 
and therefore I bring them under one obfer- 
vation. They are more allied to our rational 
nature than thofe mentioned in the laft obfer- 
vation, and therefore are confidered by them- 

That I may not be miftaken, it may be ob- 
ferved, that I do not fay that abftrad: notions, 
or other accurate notions of things, after they 
have been formed, cannot be barely conceived 
without any exercife of judgment about them, 
I doubt not that they may : But what I fay, is, 
that, in their formation in the mind at firft, 
there muft be fome exercife of judgment. 

It is impolTible to diftinguifh the different 
attributes belonging to the fame fubjecl, with- 
out judging that they are really different and 
diflinguifhable, and that they have that relati- 
on to the fubject which Logicians exprefs, by 
faying that they may be predicated of it. We 
cannot generalife, without judging that the 
fame attribute does or may belong to many 
individuals. It has been fhewn, that our fim- 
plefl general notions are formed by thefe two 
operations of diftinguifliing and generalifing ; 
judgment therefore is exercifed in forming the 
fimplefl general notions. 

In thofe that are more complex, and which 
have been fhewn to be formed by combining 
the more fimple, there is another aft of the 
judgment required ; for fuch combinations 
are not made at random, but for an end ; and 
judgment is employed in fitting them to that 
N 2 end. 

i8o ESSAY VI. 

CHAP. end. We form complex general notions for 
^- conveulency of arranging our thoughts in dif- 

' " courfe and rcafoning ; and therefore, of an 
infinite number of combinations that might be 
formed, we chufe only thofe that are ufeful 
and necelfary. 

That judgment mud be employed in divid- 
ing as well as in diftinguifliing, appears evi- 
dent. It is one thing to divide a fubjeft pro- 
perly, another to cut it in pieces. Hoc non eji 
divider e^ fed f rangers rem^ faid Cicero, when 
he cenfured an improper divifion of Epicurus. 
Reafon has difcovered rules of divifion, which 
have been known to Logicians more than two 
thoufand years. 

There are rules likewife of definition of no 
lefs antiquity and authority. A man may no 
doubt divide or define properly without at- 
tending to the rules, or even without knowing 
them. But this can only be, when he has 
judgment to perceive that to be right in a par- 
ticular cafe, v/hich the rule determines to be 
right in all cafes. 

I add in general, that, without fome degree 
of judgment, we can form no accurate and 
difiinct notions of things ; fo that, one pro- 
vince of judgment is, to aid us in forming 
clear and diftincl conceptions of things, which 
are rhe only fit materials for reafoning. 

'Lhis will probably appear to be a paradox 
to Philofophers, who have always confidered 
the formation of ideas of every kind as be- 
longing to fimple apprehenfion ; and that the 
fole province of judgment is to put them to- 
gether in affirmative or negative propofitions j 
and therefore it requires fome confirmation. 



Firjl^ I think it neceflarily follows, fromCHAP. 
what has been already faid in this obfervation. ,/;_^ 
For if, without fonie degree of judgment, a 
man can neither diftihguifh, nor divide, nor 
define, nor form any general notion, fimple 
or complex, he furely, without fome degree 
of judgment, cannot have in his mind the ma- 
terials neceffary to reafoning. 

There cannot be any propofition in language 
which does not involve fome general concep- 
tion. The propofition, that I exijl^ which 
Des Cartes thought the firfl of all truths, and 
the foundation of all knowledge, cannot be 
conceived without the conception of exiftence, 
one of the moft abllrad: general conceptions. 
A man cannot believe his own exiftence, or 
the exiftence of any thing he fees or remem- 
bers, until he has fo much judgment as to dif- 
tinguifh things that really exifl from things 
which are only conceived. He fees a man fix 
feet high ; he conceives a man fixty feet high ; 
he judges the firfl objett to exift, becaufe he 
fees it ; the fecond he does not judge to exift, 
becaufe he only conceives it. Now, I would 
afk. Whether he can attribute exiftence to the 
firfl: objeft, and not to the fecond, without 
knowing what exiftence means ? It is impofTi- 

How early the notion of exiftence enters in- 
to the mind, I cannot determine ; but it muft 
certainly be in the mind, as foon as we can 
affirm of any thing, with underflanding, that 
it exifts. 

In every other propofition, the predicate at 
leaft muft be a general notion ; a predicable 
and an univerfal being one and the fame. Be- 
fides this, every propofition either affirms or 


i82 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP, denies. And no man can have a diftindt con- 
ception of a propofition, who does not under- 
ftand diftindly the meaning of affirming or de- 
nying : But thefe are very general concepti- 
ons, and, as was before obferved, are derived 
from judgment, as their fource and origin. 

I am fenfible that a (Irong objection may be 
made to this reafoning, and that it may feem 
to lead to an abfurdity, or a contraditlion. 
It may be faid, that every judgment is a men- 
tal affirmation or negation. If therefore fome 
previous exercife of judgment be necelTary to 
underftand what is meant by affirmation or 
negation, the exercife of judgment muft go 
before any judgment, which is abfurd. 

In like manner, every judgment may be ex- 
prcfTed by a propofition, and a propofition muft 
be conceived before we can judge of it. If 
therefore we cannot conceive the meaning of a 
propofition without a previous exercife of 
judgment, it follows that judgment muft be 
previous to the conception of any propolition, 
and at the fame time that the conception of a 
propofition muft be previous to all judgment, 
which is a contradidion. 

The reader may pleafe to obferve, that I 
have limited what I have faid to diftinCl con- 
ception, and fome degree of judgment ; and 
it is by this means I hope to avoid this laby- 
rinth of abfurdity and contradiction. The fa- 
culties of conception and judgment have an 
infancy and a maturity as man has. What I 
have faid is limited to their mature ftate. I be- 
lieve in their infant ftate they are very weak 
and indiftincl ; and that, by imperceptible de- 
grees, they grow to maturity, each giving aid 
to the other, and receiving aid from it. But 



which of them firfl began this friendly inter-^H AP. 
courfe, is beyond my ability to determine. It 
is like the queflion concerning the bird and the 

In the prefent ftate of things, it is true that 

every bird comes from an egg^ and every egg 
from a bird ; and each may be faid to be pre- 
vious to the other. But if we go back to the 
origin of things, there muff have been fome 
bird that did not come from any egg, or fome 
egg that did not come from any bird. 

In like manner, in the mature ftate of man, 
diftincl conception of apropofitionfuppofes fome 
previous exercife of judgment, and difhinfi: 
judgment fuppofes diflind conception. Each 
may truly be faid to come from the other, as 
the bird from the egg, aud the egg from the 
bird. But if we trace back this fucceflion to 
its origin, that is, to the firfl propofition that 
was ever conceived by the man, and the firfl 
judgment he ever formed, I determine nothing 
about them, nor do I know in what order, or 
how they were produced, any more than how 
the bones grow in the womb of her that is with 

The firfl exercife of thefe faculties of con- 
ception and judgment is hid, like the fources 
of the Nile, in an unknown region. 

The neceffity of fome degree of judgment 
to clear and diflin£l conceptions of things, 
may, 1 think, be illuftrated by this fimihtude. 

An artift, fuppofe a Carpenter, cannot 
work in his art without tools, and thefe tools 
mufl be made by art. The exercife of the art 
therefore is neceffary to make the tools, and 
the tools are neceffary to the exercife of the 
art. There is the fame appearance of contra- 



184 E S S A Y VI. 

C H A P. diction, as in what I have advanced concerning 
^^ the neceffity of fome degree of judgment, in 
order to form clear and diflincl conceptions of 
things. Thefe are the tools we mufl ufe in 
judging and in reafoning, and without them 
mufl make very bungling work ; yet thefe 
tools cannot be made without fome exercife of 

The neceffity of fome degree of judgment in 
forming accurate and diftinct notions of things 
will farther appear, if we confider attentively 
what notions we can form, without any aid of 
judgment, of the objects of fenfe, of the ope- 
rations of our own minds, or of the relations 
of things. 

To begin with the objefts ef fenfe. It is ac- 
knowledged on all hands, that the firft notions 
we have of fenfible objects are got by the ex- 
ternal fenfes only, and probably before judg- 
ment is brought forth ; but thefe firft notions 
are neither fimple, nor are they accurate and 
diftinft : They are grofs and indiftinft, and 
like the chaos^ a rudis indigejiaque moles. Be- 
fore we can have any diftinft notion of this 
mafs, it muft be analyfcd ; the heterogeneous 
parts muft be feparated in our conception, and 
the fimple elements, w^hich before lay hid in 
the common mafs, muft firft be diftinguiftied, 
and then put together into one whole. 

In this way it is that we form diftinct notions 
even of the objects of fenfe; but this analyfis 
and compofition, by habit, becomes fo eafy, 
and is performed fo readily, that we are apt to 
overlook it, and to impute the diftind notion 
we have form.ed of the object to the fenfes 
alone ; and this we are the more prone to do, 
becaufe, when once we have diftinguiflied the 



fenfible qualities of the objed from one ano-C HAP. 
ther, the fenfe gives teftimony to each of ' 

You perceive, for inftance, an objed white, 
round, and a foot in diameter : 1 grant that 
you perceive all thefe attributes of the obje£t 
by fenfe ; but if you had not been able to dif- 
tinguifli the colour from the figure, and both 
from the magnitude, your fenfes would only 
have given you one complex and confufed no- 
tion of all thefe mingled together. 

A man who is able to fay with underftand- 
ing, or to determine in his own mind, that 
this objed is white, muft have diftinguifhed 
v/hitenefs from other attributes. If he has not 
made this diftinction, he does not underftand 
what he fays. 

Suppofe a cube of brafs to be prefented at 
the fame time to a child of a year old and to a 
man. The regularity of the figure will attradt 
the attention of both. Both have the fenfes of 
fight and of touch in equal perfedtion ; and 
therefore, if any thing be difcovered in this 
object by the man, which cannot be difcovered 
by the child, it mufl be owing, not to the fen- 
fes, but to fome other faculty which the child 
has not yet attained. 

Firjl^ then, the man can eafily diftinguifli 
the body from the furface which terminates it ; 
this the child cannot do. Secondly^ The man 
can perceive, that this furface is made up of 
fix planes of the fame figure and magnitude ; 
the child cannot difcover this. Thirdly^ The 
man perceives, that each of thefe planes has 
four equal fides, and four equal angles ; and 
that the oppofite fides of each plane, and the 
oppofite planes are parallel. 


i86 ESSAY VI. 

P. It will furely be allowed, that a man of or- 
dinary judgment may obferve all this in a cube 
which he makes an objed of contemplation, 
and takes time to confider ; that he may give 
the name of a fquare, to a plane terminated by 
four equal fides and four equal angles ; and 
the name of a cube, to a folid terminated by 
fix equal fquares ; all this is nothing elfe but 
analyling the figure of the object prcfented to 
his fenfes into its fimpleft elements, and again 
compounding it of thofe elements. 

By this analyfis and compofition, two effecls 
are produced. Firji^ From the one complex 
objedl which his fenfes prcfented, though one 
of the mod fimple the fenfes can p relent, he 
educes many fimple and diftind notions of 
right hnes, angles, plain furface, fohd, equa- 
lity, parallelifm ; notions which the child has 
not yet faculties to attain. Secondly^ When 
he confiders the cube as compounded of thefe 
elements, put together in a certain order, he 
has then, and not before, a diilincl; and fcien- 
tific notion of a cube. The child neither con- 
ceives thofe elements, nor in what order they 
mull be put together, in order to make a 
cube ; and therefore has no accurate notion of 
a cube, which can make it a fubject of reafon- 

Whence I think we may conclude, that the 
notion which we have from the fenfes alone, 
even of the fimpleft objects of fenfe, is indif- 
tind and incapable of being either defcribed or 
reafoned upon, until it is analyfed into its fim- 
ple elements, and confidered as compounded 
of thofe elements. 

If we fhould apply this reafoning to more 
complex objeds of fenfe, the conclufion would 



be ftill more evident. A dog may be taught CHAP, 
to turn a jack, but he can never be taught to 
have a dhtinft notion of a jack. He fees eve- 
ry part as well as a man ; but the relation of 
the parts to one another, and to the whole, he 
has not judgment to comprehend. 

A dilLincl: notion of an obje£t, even of fenfe, 
is never got in an iiiftant ; but the fenfe per- 
forms its office in an inftant. Time is not re- 
quired to fee it better, but to analyfe it, to 
diftinguifh the different parts, and their relati- 
on to one another, and to the whole. 

Hence it is, that when any vehement pailion 
or emotion hinders the cool application of 
judgment, we get no diitinct notion of an ob- 
je6t, even though the fenfe be long direfted 
to it. A man who is put into a panic, by 
thinking he fees a ghoft, may (tare at it long, 
without having any diftinct notion of it ; it is 
his underflanding, and not his fenfe that is 
difturbed by his horror. If he can lay that 
afide, judgment immediately enters upon its 
office, and examines the length and breadth, 
the colour, and figure, and difhance of the 
objeft. Of thefe, while his panic lalled, he 
had no diftind notion, though his eyes were 
open all the time. 

When the eye of fenfe is open, but that of 
judgment fhut by a panic, or any violent emo- 
tion that engrolfes the ipind, we fee things 
confufedly, and probably much in the fame 
manner that brutes and perfect idiots do, and 
infants before the ufe of judgment. 

There are therefore notions of the objefts 
of fenfe which are grofs and indiftind ; and 
there are others that are diftind and fcientific. 


i88 ESSAY VI. 

C H A P. The former may be got from the fenfes alone ; 
but the latter cannot be obtained without fome 
^^'^''^^'^ degree of judgment. 

The clear and accurate notions which geo- 
metry prefents to us of a point, a right line, 
an angle, a fquare, a circle, of ratios dired: 
and inverfe, and others of that kind, can find 
no admittance into a mind that has not fome 
degree of judgment. They are not properly 
ideas of the fenfes, nor are they got by com- 
pounding ideas of the fenfes ; but, by analy- 
fmg the ideas or notions we get by the fenfes 
into their fimplefl elements, and again combi- 
ning thefe elements into various, accurate, 
and elegant forms, which the fenfes never did 
nor can exhibit. 

Had Mr. Hume attended duly to this, it 
ought to have prevented a very bold attempt, 
which he has profecuted through fourteen pa- 
ges of his Treatife of Human Nature, to prove 
that geometry is founded upon ideas that are 
not exact, and axioms that are not precifely 

A Mathematician might be tempted to 
thinly, that the man who ferioufly undertakes 
this has no great acquaintance with geome- 
try ; but I apprehend it is to be imputed to 
another caufe, to a zeal for his own fyftem. 
"We fee that even men of genius may be 
drawn into ftrange^ paradoxes, by an attach- 
ment to a favourite idol of the underltanding, 
when it demands fo coftly a facrihce. 

We Proteftants think, that the devotees of 
the Roman church pay no fmall tribute to her 
authority, when they renounce their five 
fenfes in obedience to her decrees. Mr. Hume's 



devotion to his fyftem carries him even toCHAP. 
trample upon mathematical uemouflration. 

The fundamental articles of his lyitem are, 
that all the perceptions of the human mind are 
either imprcffions or ideas ; and that ideas are 
only faint copies of impreffions. The idea of 
a right hne, therefore, is only a faint copy of 
fome line that has been feen, or felt by touch ; 
and the faint copy cannot be more perfed than 
the original. Now of fuch right lines, it is 
evident, that the axioms of geometry are not 
precifely true ; for two lines that are flraight 
to our fight or touch may include a fpace, or 
they may meet in more points than one. If 
therefore we cannot form any notion of a 
ftraight line more accurate than that which we 
have from the fenfes of fight and touch, geo- 
metry has no folid foundation. If, on the 
other hand, the geometrical axioms are pre- 
cifely true, the idea of a right line is not copied 
from any impreffion of fight or touch, but 
muft have a different origin, and a more per- 
feft ftandard. 

As the Geometrician, by reflecting only 
upon the extenfion and figure of matter, forms 
a fet of notions more accurate and fcientific 
than any which the fenfes exhibit ; fo the na- 
tural Philofopher, refleding upon other attri- 
butes of matter, forms another fet, fuch as 
thofe of denfity, quantity of matter, velocity, 
momentum, fluidity, elafticity, centres of gra- 
vity, and of ofcillation. Thefe notions are ac- 
curate and fcientific ; but they cannot enter in- 
to a mind that has not fome degree of judgment, 
nor can we make them intelligible to children, 
until they have fome ripenefs of underdanding. 
In navigation, the notions of latitude, lon- 
gitude, courfe, leeway, cannot be uiade intel- 


CHAP. ligible to children ; and fo it is with regard to 
the terms of every fcience, and of every art 
about which we can reafon. They have had 
their five fenfes as perfect as men, for years 
before they are capable of diflinguifhing, com- 
paring, and perceiving the relations of things, 
fo as to be able to form fuch notions. They 
acquire the intelledual powers by a flow pro- 
grefs, and by imperceptible degrees, and by 
means of them learn to form diftinct and ac- 
curate notions of things, which the fenfes 
could never have imparted. 

Raving faid fo much of the notions we get 
from the fenfes alone of the objeds of fenfe, 
let us next confider what notions we can have 
from confcioufnefs alone of the operations of 
our minds. 

Mr. Locke very properly calls confcioufnefs 
an internal fenfe. It gives the like immediate 
knowledge of things in the mind, that is, of 
our own thoughts and feelings, as the fenfes 
give us of things external. There is this differ- 
ence, however, that an external object may 
be at reft, and the fenfe may be employed 
about it for fome time. But the objecls of 
confcioufnefs are never at reft ; the ftream of 
thought flows like a river, without ftopping a 
moment ; the whole train of thought paffes in 
fuccellion under the eye of confcioufnefs, 
which is always employed about the prefent. 
But is it confcioufnefs that analyfes complex 
operations, diftinguilhes their different ingre- 
dients, and combines them in diftind parcels 
under general names ? This furely is not the 
work of confcioufnefs, nor can it be performed 
without refiedion, recolleding and judging of 
what we were confcious of, and diftindly re- 


member. This refleclion does not appear in^ ^ -^ ^• 
children. Of all the powers of the mind, it 
feems to be of the lateft growth, whereas con- ^""^ ^ 
fcioufnefs is coeval with the earlieft. 

Confcioufnefs, being a kind of internal fenfe, 
can no more give us dillinct and accurate no- 
tions of the operations of our minds, than the 
external fenfes can give of external objeds. 
Reflection upon the operations of our minds is 
the fame kind of operation with that by which 
we form diftincl notions of external objefts. 
They differ not in their nature, but in this 
only^ that one is employed about external, 
and the other about internal objects ; and both 
may, with equal propriety, be called re- 

Mr. Locke has refl:rided the word reflection 
to that which is employed about the operations 
of our minds, without any authority, as I 
think, from cuitom, the arbiter of language : 
For furely I may reflect upon what I have feen 
or heard, as v/ell as upon what I have thought. 
The word, in its proper and common meaning, 
is equally applicable to objects of fenfe, and to 
objects of confcioufnefs. He has likewife con- 
founded reflection with confcioufnefs, and 
feems not to have been aware that they are 
different powers, and appear at very different 
periods of life. 

If that eminent Fhilofopher had been aware 
of thefe miftakes about the meaning of the 
word reflection, he would, I think, have feen, 
that as it is by reflection upon the operations of 
our own minds that we can form any difliind 
and accurate notions of them, and not by con- 
fcioufnefs without reflection ; fo it is by reflec- 
tion upon the objects of fenfe, and not by the 


192 ESSAY Vr. 

CHAP, fenfes without refleftion, that we can form dif- 
J^ tin6; notions of them. Refledion upon any 
thing, whether external or internal, makes it an 
object of our intelledual powers, by which we 
furvey it on all fides, and form fuch judg- 
ments about it as appear to be juft and true. 

1 propofed, in the third place, to confider 
our notions of the relations of things : And 
here I think, that, without judgment we can- 
not have any notion of relations. 

There are two ways in which we get the no- 
tion of relations. The firft is, by comparing 
the related objeds, when we have before had 
the conception of both. By this comparifon, 
we perceive the relation, either immediately, 
or by a procefs of reafoning. That my foot is 
longer than my finger, I perceive immedi- 
ately ; and that three is the half of fix. This 
immediate perception is immediate and intui- 
tive judgment. That the angles at the bafe of 
an ifofceles triangle are equal, I perceive by a 
procefs of reafoning, in which it will be ac- 
knowledged there is judgment. 

Another way in which we get the notion of 
relations (which feems not to have occurred to 
Mr. Locke) is, when, by attention to one of 
the related objeds, we perceive or judge, that 
it muft, from its nature, have a certain rela- 
tion to fomething elfe, which before perhaps 
we never thought of; and thus our attention to 
one of the related objects produces the notion 
of a correlate, and of a certain relation between 

Thus, when I attend to colour, figure, 
weight, I cannot help judging thefe to be qua- 
lities which cannot exift without a fubjed ; 
that is, fomething which is coloured, figured, 



heavy. If I had not perceived fuch things to C H A P. 
be qualities, I fliould never have had any no- ^• 
tion of their fubjecl or of their relation to it. 

By attending to the operations of thinking, 
memory, reafoning, v/e perceive or judge, 
that there mufl be fomething which thinks, re- 
members, and reafons, which we call the 
mind. When we attend to any change that 
happens in Nature, judgment informs us, 
that there mufl be a caufe of this change, 
which had povv^er to produce it ; and thus we 
get the notions of caufe and eft'ecl, and of the 
relation between them. When we attend to 
body, we perceive that it cannot exlft without 
fp.ace ; hence we get the notion of fpace, 
(which is neither an object of fenfe nor of con- 
fcioufnefs), and of the relation which bodies 
have to a certain portion of unhmited fpace, as 
their place. 

I apprehend therefore, that ail our notions of 
relations may more properly be afcribed to 
judgment as their fource and origin, than to 
any other power of the mind. We mufl 
firit perceive relations by our judgment, be- 
fore we can conceive them without judging of 
them ; as we mufl firfl perceive colours by 
fight, before we can conceive them without fee- 
ing them. I think Mr. Locke, when he comes 
tofpeak of the ideas of relations, does not fay 
that they are ideas of fenfation or refledllon, 
but only that they terminate In and are 
concerned about ideas of fenfation or re- 

The notions of unity and number are fa 
abflracl, that it is ImpolTible they fhould enter 
into the mind until it has fome degree of judg- 

VoL. II. O ment. 

194 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP. ment. We fee with what difficulty, and how 
,^^J^^ llowly, children learn to ufe, with underftand- 
ing, the names even of fmall numbers, and 
how they exult in this acquifition when they 
have attained it. Every number is conceived 
by the relation which it bears to unity, or to 
known combinations of units ; and upon that 
account, as well as on account of its abftraft 
nature, all diftinft notions of it require fome 
degree of judgment. 

In its proper place, I fhall have occafion to 
fliow, that judgment is an ingredient in all 
determinations of tafte ; in all moral determi- 
nations ; and in many of our paffions and af- 
fe&ions. So that this operation, after we come 
to have any exercife of judgment, mixes with 
mod of the operations of our minds, and, in 
analyfmg them., cannot be overlooked without 
confufion and error. 



CHAP. n. "• 

Of Common Senfe, 

TH E word fenfe, in common language, 
feems to have a different meaning from, 
that which it has in the writings of Philofo- 
phers ; and thofe different meanings are apt 
to be confounded, and to occafion embarraf- 
ment and error. 

Not to go back to ancient philofophy upon 
this point, modern Philofophers confider fenfe 
as a power that has nothing to do with judg- 
ment. Senfe they confider as the power by 
which we receive certain ideas or impreflions 
from obje6ts ; and judgment as the power by 
which we compare thofe ideas, and perceive 
their neceffary agreements and difagreements. 

The external fenfes give us the idea of co- 
lour, figure, found, and other qualities of bo- 
dy, primary or fecondary. Mr. Locke gave 
the name of an internal fenfe to confcioufnefs, 
becaufe by it we have the ideas of thought, 
memory, reafoning, and other operations of 
our own minds. Dr. Hutcheson of Glaf- 
gow, conceiving that we have fimple and ori- 
ginal ideas which cannot be imputed either to 
the external fenfes, or to confcioufnefs, intro- 
duced other internal fenfes ; fuch as the fenfe 
of harmony, the fenfe of beauty, and the mo- 
ral fenfe. Ancient Philofophers alfo fpake of 
internal fenfes, of which memory was account- 
ed one. 

But all thefe fenfes, whether external or in- 
ternal, have been reprefented by Philofophers, 
as the means of furnifliing our minds with 
O 2 ideas, 

196 ESSAY VI. 

C H A P, ideas, without including any kind of judg- 

^^- ment. Dr. Hutcheson defines a fenfe to be 

a determination of the mind to receive any idea 

from the prefence of an objed independent on 

our will. 

*>' By this term (fenfe) Philofophers in ge- 
" neral have denominated thofe faculties, in 
" confequence of which we are liable to feel- 
" ings relative to ourfelves only, and from 
" which they have not pretended to draw any 
" conclufions concerning the nature of things ; 
'' whereas truth is not relative, but abfolute 
" and real. Dr. Priestly's Exam, of Dr. 
" Reid, 'bfc. page 123. 

On the contrary, in common language, 
fenfe always implies judgment. A man of 
fenfe is a man of judgment. Good fenfe is 
good judgment. Nonfenfe is what is evi- 
dently contrary to right judgment. Common 
fenfe is that degree of judgment which is com- 
mon to men vidth whom we can converfe and 
tranfadl bufmefs. 

Seeing and hearing by Philofophers are cal- 
led fenfes, becaufe we have ideas by them ; 
by the vulgar they are called fenfes, becaufe 
we judge by them. We judge of colours by 
the eye : of founds by the ear ; of beauty and 
deformity by tafte ; of right and wrong in 
condud, by our moral fenfe or confcience. 

Sometimes Philofophers, who reprefent it 
as the fole province of fenfe to furnifli us with 
ideas, fall unawares into the popular opinion, 
that they are judging faculties. Thus Locke, 
book. 4. chap. 11. " And of this, (that the 
'• quality or accident of colour doth really ex- 
" ill, and hath a being without me,) the grea- 
" teft aifurance I can poffibly have, and to 

*' which 


" which my faculties can attain, is the tefli- CHAP. 
*' mony of my eyes, which are the proper and ^^• 
*' fole judges of this thing." ""^ ■" ' 

This popular meaning of the word jhifc is 
not peculiar to the EngHfh language. The 
correlponding words in Greek, Latin, and I 
believe in all the European languages, have 
the fame latitude. The Latin words fenfire^ 
fententia^ fenfa, fenfus, from the laft of which 
the Englifh word fenfe is borrowed, exprefs 
judgment or opinion, and are applied indiffe- 
rently to objecis of external fenfe, of tafLe, of 
morals, and of the underflanding. 

I cannot pretend to affign the reafon why a 
word, which is no term of art, which is fami- 
liar in common converfation, (hould have fo 
different a meaning in philofophical writings. 
I fhall only obferve, that the philofophical 
meaning correfponds perfectly with the account 
which Mr. Locke and other modern Philofo- 
phers give of judgment. For if the fole pro- 
vince of the fenfe?, external and internal, be 
to furniili the mind with the ideas about which 
we judge and reafon, it feems to be a natural 
confequence, that the fole province of judg- 
ment (hould be to compare thofe ideas, and to 
perceive their neceffary relations. 

Thefe two opinions feem to be fo connected, 
that one may have been the caufe of the other. 
I apprehend, however, that if both be true, 
there is no room left for any knowledge or 
judgment, either of the real exiftence of con- 
tingent things, or of their contingent relations. 

To return to the popular meaning of the 
word fenfe. I believe it would be much more 
difficult to find good authors who never ufe it 
in that meaning, than to find fuch as do. 





CHAP. We mav take IMr. Pope as good authority 
^^- for the meaning of an Englifh word. He ufes 
^"^""^"^ it often, and in his Epiftle to the Earl of Bur- 
lington, has made a little defcant upon it. 

" Oft have you hinted to your brother Peer, 
" A certain truth, which many buy too dear ; 
" Something there is more needful than ex- 

" pence, 
" And fomething previous cv'n to tafte,- — ^'tis 

" fenfe. 
" Good fenfe, which only is the gift of Hea- 

" ven; 
" And though no fcience, fairly worth the 

" fcven ; 
*' A light, which in yourfelf you mull perceive, 
" Jones and Le Notre have it not to give. 

This inward light or fenfe is given by Heaven 
to different perfons in different degrees. There 
is a certain degree of it which is neceffary to 
our being fubjecls of law and government, ca- 
pable of managing our own affairs, and an- 
fwerable for our conduct towards others : This 
is called common fenfe, becaufe it is common 
to all m.en with whom we can tranfact bufmefs, 
or call to account for their conduct. 

The laws of all civilifed nations diftinguifh 
thofe v. ho have this gift of Heaven, from thofe 
who have it not. The lafl miay have rights 
which ought not to be violated, but having no 
undeiflanding in themfelves to direct their ac- 
tions, the laws appoint them to be guided by 
the underftanding of others. It is eafilv dif- 
cerned by its effects in mens actions, in their 
fpeeches, and even in their looks j and when 



it Is made a queflion. whether a man has thIsC H A P. 
natural gift or not, a judge or a jury, upon a ,_^..^ 
fhort converfation with him, can, for the mod 
part, determine the queflion with great aflu- 

The fame degree of underftanding which 
makes a man capable of ading with common 
prudence in the conduct of Hfe, makes him 
capable of difcovering what is true and what 
is falfe in matters that are felf-evident, and 
which he diftindly apprehends. 

All knowledge, and all fcience, mufl be built 
upon principles that are felf-evident; and of 
fuch principles, every man who has common 
fenfe is a competent judge, when he conceives 
them diftinclly. Hence it is, that difputes 
very often terminate in an appeal to common 

While the parties agree in the firft principles 
on which their arguments are grounded, there 
is room for reafoning; but when one denies 
what to the other appears too evident to need, 
or to admit of proof, reafoning feems to be at 
an end ; an appeal is made to common fenfe, 
and each party is left to enjoy his own opinion. 

There feems to be no remedy for this, nor 
any way left to difcufs fuch appeals, unlefs the 
decifions of common fenfe can be brought into 
a code, in which all reafonable men Ihall ac- 
quiefce. This indeed, if it be poffible, would 
be very defirable, and would fupply a defide- 
ratum in logic ; and why (liauld it be thought 
impoffible that reafonable men fhould agree in 
things that are felf-evident? 

All that is intended in this chapter, is to ex- 
plain the meaning of common fenfe, that it 




C H A P.may not be treated, as It has been by fome, 
as a new principle, or as a word without any 
"~^ meamng. I have endeavoured to fhew, that 
fenie, in its mofl: common, and therefore its 
moil proper meaning, fignlfies judgment, 
though Philofophers often ufe It in another 
meaning. From this it is natural to think, 
that common fenfe fliould mean common judg- 
ment; and fo it really does. 

What the preclfe limits are which divide com- 
mon judgment from what Is beyond it on the 
one hand, and from what falls Ihort of it on 
the other, may be difficult to determine; and 
men may agree In the meaning of the word 
who have different opinions about thofe limits, 
or who even never thought of fixing them. 
This is as intelligible as, that all Engllflimen 
fhould mean the fame thing by the county of 
York, though perhaps not a hundredth part 
of them can point out Its preclfe limits. 

Indeed, It feems to me, that common fenfe 
is as unambiguous a word, and as well under- 
ftood as the county of York. We find it in 
innumerable places in good writers; we hear 
it on innumerable occafions in converfation; 
and, as far as I am isble to judge, always in 
the fame meaning. And this Is probably the 
reafon why it is fo feldom defined or explained. 

Dr. Johnson, in the auihorlttes he gives, 
to {hew that the word fenfe fignlfies underltand- 
ing, foundnefs of faculties, firength of natu- 
ral reafon, quotes Dr. Bentley for what may 
be called a definition of com.mon fenfe, though 
probably net intended for that purpofe, but 
mentioned acQidentally: " God hath endowed 
" mankind with power and abilities, which w^e 

" call 


** call natural light and reafon, and common C II A P. 
" fenfe." ^ . "• 

It is true, that common fenfe is a popular, 
and not a fcholaflic word ; and by moft of thofe 
who have treated fyflematically of the powers 
of the underlianding, it is only occafionally 
mentioned, as it is by other writers. But I re- 
coiled two philofophical writers, who are ex- 
ceptions to this remark. One is Buffier, 
who treated largely of common fenfe, as 
a principle of knowledge, above fifty years 
ago. The other is Bifliop Berkeley, who, 
I think, has laid as much ftrefs upon common 
fenfe, in oppofition to the doctrines of Philo- 
fophers, as any Philofopher that has come after 
him. If the reader chufes to look back to 
PZffay II. chap. io.~ he will be fatisfied of this, 
from the quotations there made for another 
purpofe, which it is unnecelfary here to re- 

Men rarely afk what common fenfe is ; be- 
caufe every man believes himfelf poffeiTcd of 
it, and would take it for an imputation upon 
his underftanding to be thought unacquainted 
with it. Yet I remember two very eminent 
authors who have put this queflion; and it is 
not improper to hear their fentiments upon a 
fubjed: fo frequently mentioned, and fo rarely 

It is well known, that Lord Shaftesbury 
gave to one of his Treatifes the title of Senfus 
Communis; an EJJay on the freedom of wit and 
humour^ in a letter to a friend; in which he 
puts his friend in mind of a free converfation 
with fome of their friends on the fubjeds of 
morality and religion, i^midfl the different 
opinions darted and maintained with great 



202 E S S A Y VI. 

C H A F life and ingenuity, one or other "would every 
^ ■ now and then take the liberty to appeal to com- 
^ ^ rnon fenfe. F very one allowed the appeal ; no 
one would offer to call the authority of the 
court in queflion, till a gentleman, whofe 
good underftanding was never, yet brought in 
doubt, defired the company very gravely that 
they would tell him what common lenfe was. 
If, faid he, by the word fefife, we were to 
underftand opinion and judgment and by 
the word common^ the generality, or any 
confiderable part of niankind, it would be 
" hard to difcover where the fubjecl of com- 
" men lenfe could lie ; for that which w^as ac- 
" cording to ihe fenfe of one part of mankind, 
*' was againfl the fenfe of another : And if 
" the majority were to determine common 
'' fenfe, it would change as often as men 
'* changed. That in religion, common fenfe 
" was as hard to determine as catholic ox ortho- 
" dox. W hat to one was abfurdity, to ano- 
" ther was demonftration. 

" In policy, if plain Britifh or Dutch fenfe 
" were right, Turkiih and French muft cer- 
tainly be wrong. And as mere nonfenfe, 
as paffive obedienccr feemed, w^e found it to 
" be the common fenfe of a great party 
" amongft ourfelves, a greater party in Europe, 
^' and perhaps the greateft part of all the 
" world befides. As for morals, the differ- 
*' ence was flill wider ; for even the Philofo- 
*' phers cculd never agree in one and the fame 
" fyilem. And fome even of our mofl admi- 
" red modern Philofophers had fairly told us, 
''' that virtue and vice had no other law or 
meafure than mere falhion and vogue." 




This is the fubftance of the genrleman's - H A P 
fpeech, which, I apprehenc], explains the 
meaning of the word perfectly, and contains ^■'^•' 
all that has been faid, or can be faid againit 
the authority of common fenfe, and the pro- 
priety of appeals to it. 

As there is no mention of any anfwer imme- 
diately to this fpeech, we might be apt to con- 
clude, that the noble author adopted the fen- 
timents of the intelligent gentleman, whofe 
fpeech he recites. But the contrary is manifed, 
from the title of Senfus Coiiununis given to his 
EiTay, from his frequent ufe of the word, and 
from the whole tenor of the Efl'ay. 

The author appears to have a double inten- 
tion in that Effay, correfponding to the double 
title prefixed to it. One intention is, tojuftify 
the ufe of wit, humour, and ridicule, in dif- 
cufling among friends the graved fubjeds. 
" I can very well fuppofe, fays he, men may 
*' be frighted out of their wits ; but I have no 
" apprehenfion they ihould be laughed out of 
" them. I can hardly imagine, that, in a 
" pleafant way, they fliould ever be talked out 
" of their love for fociety, or reafoned out of 
" humanity and common fenfe." 

The other intention fignified by the title 
Senfus Co?nmunis, is carried on hand in hand 
with the firft, and is to fhew, that common 
fenfe is not fo vague and uncertain a thing as 
it is reprcfented to be in the fceptical fpeech 
before recited. "I will try," fays he, " what 
" certain knowledge or alfurance of things 
" may be recovered in that very way, (to wit, 
'' of humour,) by which all certainty, you 
" thought, was loft, and an endlefs fcepticifm 
^' introduced." 





P- He gives fome criticifms upon the vjoxd/en- 
fus communis in Juvenal, Horace, and Se- 
neca ; and after fliewing, in a facetious way 
throughout the Treatife, that the fundamental 
principles of morals, of poHtics, of criticifm, 
and of every branch of knowledge, are the 
dictates of common fenfe, he fums up the 
whole in thefe words : " That fome moral and 
philofophical truths there are fo evident in 
themfelves^ that it would be eafier to ima- 
gine half mankind run mad, and joined pre- 
cifely in the fame fpecies of folly, than to 
admit any thing as truth, which fhould be 
advanced againll fuch natural knowledge, 
fundamental reafon, and common fenfe.'* 
And, on taking leave, he adds : " And now, 
my friend, fliould you find 1 had moralifed 
in any tolerable manner, according to com- 
mon fenfe, and without canting, I fhould 
be fatisfied with my performance.'* 
Another eminent writer who has put the 
quefhion what common fenfe is, is Fenelon, 
the famous Archbilhop of Cambray. 

That ingenious and pious author, having 
had an early prepofTeffion in favour of the Car- 
tefian philofophy, made an attempt to eftablifh, 
on a fure foundation, the metaphylical argu- 
ments which Des Cartes had invented to 
prove the being of the Deity. For this pur- 
pofe, he begins with the Cartefian doubt. He 
proceeds to find out the truth of his own exift- 
ence, and then to examine wherein the evi- 
dence and certainty of this and other fuch pri- 
mary truths confiiled. This, according to 
Cartefian principles, he places in the clearnefs 
^nd diHintlnefs of the ideas. On the contrary, 



he places the abfurdity of the contrary propo-^ HAP. 
fitions, in their being repugnant to his clear ^ 
and diftindl ideas. 

To illuftrate this, he gives various examples 
of queftions manifeftly abfurd and ridiculous, 
which every man of common underflanding 
would at firil fight perceive to be io, and then 
goes on to this purpofe. 

" What is it that makes thefe queftions ri- 
" diculous ? Wherein does this ridicule pre- 
" cifely confift ? It will perhaps be rephed, 
" that it confiits in this, that they ihock com- 
" mon fenfe. But what is the fame common 
" fenfe ? It is not the firft notions that all 
" men have equally of the fame things. This 
" common fenfe, which is always and in all 
" places the fame ; which prevents enquiry ; 
" which makes enquiry in fome cafes ridicu- 
" lous ; which, inftead of enquiring, makes a 
" man laugh whether he will or not ; which 
" puts it out of a man's power to doubt ; this 
" fenfe, which only waits to be confulted ; 
" which fhows icfelf at the firft glance, and 
*' immediately difcovers the evidence or the 
*' abfurdity of a queftion ; is not this the fame 
" that I call my ideas ? 

" Behold then thofe ideas or general no- 
*' tions which it is not in my power either to 
" contradid or examine, and by which I 
" examine and decide in every cafe, infomuch 
" that I laugh inftead of anfwering, as often 
" as any thing is propofed to me, which is 
" evidently contrary to what thefe immutable 
" ideas reprefent." 

I ftiall only obferve upon this paflage, that 
the interpretation it gives of Des Cartes cri- 


C H A P.tenon of truth, whether jufl or not, is the 
^^- moft intelligible and the moft favourable I 
have met with. 

I beg leave to mention one paflage from 
Cicero, and to add two or three from late 
writers, which fliov/ that this word is not be- 
come obfolete, nor has changed its meaning. 

De Oratore, lib. 3. " Omnes enim tacito 
" quodam fenfu, fine ulla arte aut ratione, 
" in artibus ac rationibus, recta ac prava 
" dijudicant. Idque cum faciant in piciuris, 
et in fignis, et in aliis operibus, ad quorum 
intclligentiam a natura minus habent in- 
ftrum.enti, turn multo oftendunt magis in 
verborum, numerorum, vocumque judi- 
*' cio ; quod ea fmt in communibus infixa 
" fenfibus ; neque earura rerum quemquam 
" funditus natura voluit expertem.'* 

Hume's EfTays and Treatifes, vol. i. p. 5. 
*• But a Philofopher who propofes only to re- 
" prefent the common fenfe of mankind in 
" more beautiful and more engaging colours, 
*' if by accident he commits a mift ake, goes 
" no farther, but renewing his appeal to com- 
" mon fenfe, and the natural fentiments of 
*' the mind, returns into the right path, and 
" fecures himfelf from any dangerous illu- 
" fion. 

Hume's Enquiry concerning the Principles 
of Morals, p. 2. " Thofe who have refufed 
" the reality of moral difliniftions may be 
" ranked among the difmgenuous difputants. 
" The only way of converting an antagonifl 
" of this kind is to leave him to himfelf: For, 
" finding that nobody keeps up the controver- 
" fy with him, 'tis probable he will at laft, of 

" himfelf. 


" himfelf, from mere wearinefs, come overCHAP. 
" to the fide of common fenfe and reafon." ^^^ 

Priestly's Inftitutes, Prelim. EiTay, vol. ^""^^"^ 
I. p. 27. " Becaufe common fenfe is a fuf- 
" ficient guard againfl many errors in religion, 
" it feems to have been taken for granted, 
" that that common fenfe is a fufficient inftruc- 
" tor alfo, whereas in faft, without pofitive in- 
" ftru£tion, men would naturally have been 
" mere favages with refpeft to religion; as, 
" without fimilar inftrudion, they would be 
*' favages with refpe^l to the arts of life and 
" the fciences. Common fenfe can only be 
" compared to a judge; but what can a judge 
" do without evidence and proper materials 
" from which to form a judgment? 

Priestly's Examination of Dr. Reid, hfc. 
page 127. " But fhouldwe, out of complai- 
" fance, admit that what has hitherto been 
*' called judgment may be called fenfe, it is 
*' making too free with the eftablifhed figni- 
" fication of words to call it common fenfe, 
*' which, in common acceptation, has long 
*' been appropriated to a very different thing, 

B*' •viz. To that capacity for judging of com- 
*' mon things that perfons of middling capa- 
*' cities are capable of." Page 1:9. "I fliould 
" therefore exped, that if a man was fo totally 
*' deprived of common fenfe as not to be able 
" to diftinguifli truth from falfehood in one 
" cafe, he would be equally incapable of dif- 
** tinguifhing it in another." 

From this cloud of teftimonies, to which 
hundreds might be added, I apprehend, that 
whatever cenfure is thrown upon thofe who 
have fpoke of common fenfe as a principle of 



^ ^r^ ^' I^-Howledge, or who have appeald to it In mat- 
^^:^^ ters that are felf-evident, will fall light, when 
there are fo many to fhare in it. Indeed, the 
authority of this tribunal is too Hicred and ve- 
nerable, and has prefcription too long in its 
favour to be now -ucifely called in queftion. 
Thofe who are difpofed to do fo, may rem.em- 
ber the fhrewd faying oi, Mr. Hobbes, 
" When reafon is againft a man, a man \\\\\ 
" be againil reafon." This is equally appU- 
cable to common fenfe. 

From the account I have given of the mean- 
ing of this term, it is eafy to judge both of 
the proper ufe and of the abufe of it. 

It is abfurd to conceive that there can be any 
oppofition between reafon and common fenfe. 
It is indeed the firfl-born of reafon, and as 
they are commonly joined together in fpeech 
and in writing, they are infeparable in their 

AVe afcribe to reafon two offices, or two de- 
grees. The firft is to judge of things felf- 
evident ; the fecond to ilraw conclufions that 
are not felf-evident from thofe that are. The 
liid of thefe is the province, and the fole pro- 
vince of common fenfe; and therefore it coin- 
cides with reafon in its whole extent, and is 
only another name for one branch or one de- 
gree of reafon. Perhaps it may be faid, Why 
then ihould you give it a particular name, fmce 
it is acknov.'ledged to be only a degree of rea- 
fon? It would be a fufficient anfwer to this. 
Why do you aboiifh a name which is to be 
found in the language of all civilized nations, 
and has acquired a right by prefcription ? Such 
an attempt is equally foolifli and ineffectual. 
Lvcry wile nian will be apt to think, that a 



name which is found in all languacjes as farCHAP. 
back as we can trace them, is not without ^^■ 
fome ufe. ^ 

But there is an obvious reafon why this de- 
gree of reafon fliould have a name appropri- 
ated to it; and that is, that in the greateil 
part of mankind no other degree of reafon is 
to be found. Jt is this degree that entitles 
them to the denomination of reafonable crea- 
tures. It is this degree of reafon, and this 
only, that makes a man capable of managing 
his own affairs, and anfwerable for his conduct 
towards others. There is therefore the bed 
reafon why it fhould have a name appropriated 
to it. 

Thefe two degrees of reafon differ in other 
refpecls, which would be fufficient to entitle 
them to diftinct names. 

The firft is purely the gift of Heaven. And 
where Heaven has not given it, no education 
can fupply the want. The fecond is learned 
by practice and rules, when the firft is not 
wanting. A man who has common fenfe may 
be taught to reafon. But if he has not that 
gift, no teaching will make him able either 
to judge of firfl principles or to reafon from 

I have only this farther to obferve, that the 
province of common fenfe is more extenfive 
in refutation than in confirmation. A con- 
clufion dravk^n by a train of juft reafoning from 
true principles cannot poffibly contradici: any 
decifion of common fenfe, becaufe truth will 
always be confiftent with itfelf. Neither can 
fuch a conclufion receive any confirmation 
from common fenfe, becaufe it is not within its 

Vol. II. P But 


But it is poflible, that, by fetting out from 
falfe principles, or by an error in reafoning, a 
man may be led to a conclufion that contra- 
dids the decifions of common fenfe. In this 
cafe, the conclufion is within the jurifdidion 
of common fenfe, though the reafoning on 
which it was grounded be not; and a man of 
common fenfe m.ay fairly reject the conclufion, 
without being able to fhew the error of the 
reafoning that led to it. 

Thus, if a Mathematician, by a procefs of 
intricate demonftration, in which fome falfe 
ftep was made, fhould be brought to this con- 
clufion, that two quantities, which are both 
equal to a third, are not equal to each other, 
a man of common fenfe, without pretending 
to be a judge of the demonftration, is well en- 
titled to rejecl: the conclufion, and to pronounce 
it abfurd. 


SENTIMENTS concerning JUDGMENT. 211 


CHAP. III. ' — ^"^ 

Sentiments of Philofophers concerning Judgment. 

A DIFFERENCE about the meaning of 
JTx^ ^ word ought not to occafion difputes 
among Philofophers : But it is often very pro- 
per to take notice of fuch differences, in order 
to prevent verbal difputes. There are, indeed, 
no words in language more liable to ambiguity 
than thofe by which we exprefs the operations 
of the mind ; and the mod candid and judici- 
ous may fometimes be led into difierent opini- 
ons about their precife meaning. 

I hinted before what I take to be a peculiarity 
in Mr. Locke with regard to the meaning of 
the word judgment, and mentioned what I ap- 
prehend may have led him into it. But let us 
hearhimfelf; Eflay, book 4. chap. 14. " The 
" faculty which God has given to man to fup- 
" ply the want of clear and certain knowledge, 
" where that cannot be had, is judgment; 
" whereby the m.ind takes its ideas to agree 
" ordifagree; or, which is the fame, any pro- 
'^ pofition to be true or falfe, without perceiv- 
" ing a demonftrative evidence in the proofs. 
" Thus the mind has two faculties, converfant 
" about truth and falfehood. Firji, Know- 
" ledge, whereby it certainly perceives, and 
" is undoubtedly fatisfied of the agreement • 
" or difagreement of any ideas. Secondly, 
" Judgment, which is the putting ideas to- 
" gether, or feparating them from one another 

" in the mijid, when their certain agreement 
P 2 " or 




C H A P:" or difagreement is not perceived, but pre- 
"^- " fumed to be fo." 

' "* Knowledge, I think, fometimes fignifies 
things known ; fometimes that acl of the mind 
by which we know them. And in Hke man- 
ner opinion fometimes fignifies things believed ; 
fometimes the acb of the mind by v^hich webe- 
Heve them. But judgment is the faculty 
which is exercifed in both thefe a£l:s of the 
mind. In knowledge, we judge without 
doubting ; in opinion, with fome mixture of 
doubt. But I know no authority, befides 
that of Mr. Locke, for calling knowledge a; 
faculty, any more than for calling opinion a 

Neither do I think that knowledge is confi- 
ned vi'ithin the narrow limits which Mr. Locke 
affigns to it ; becaufe the far greateft part of 
what all men call human knowledge, is in 
things which neither admit of intuitive nor of 
demonftrative proof. 

I have all along ufed the word judgment in a 
more extended fenfe than Mr. Locke does in: 
the pafiage above mentioned. I underftand by 
it that operation of the mind, by which, we de- 
termine, concerning any thing that may be 
exprefled by a propofition, v/hether it be true 
or falfe. Every propofition is either true or 
falfe ; fo is every judgment. A propofition 
may be fimply conceived without judging of it. 
But when there is not only a conception of the 
propofition, but a mental affirmation or nega- 
tion, an alTent or diflent of the underftanding, 
whether weak or ilrong, that is judgment. 

I think, that fince the days of xAristotle, 
Logicians have taken the word in that fenfe, 
and other writers, for the mofl part, though 


SENTIMENTS concerning JUDGMENT. 213 

there are other meanings, which there is noC HA P. 
danger of confounding with this. ^,J.!L^ 

We may take the authority of Dr. Isaac 
Watts, as a Logician, as a man who under- 
ftood EngHfii, and who had a juft efleem of 
Mr. Locke's Effay. Logic. Introd. page 5. 
" Judgment is that operation of the mind, 
" wherein we join two or more ideas together 
** by one affirmation or negation ; that is, we 
" either affirm or deny ibis to be tbnt. So 
" this tree is high ; that borfe is not fwift ; the 
" mind of man is a thinking being ; mere matter 
" has no thought belonging to it ; God is juft ; 
" good men are often mif enable in this world ; a 
" righteous governor will make a difference be- 
*' twixt the evil and the good ; which fentences 
" are the effisd: of judgment, and are called 
*' propofitions." And part 2. chap. 2. feci. 9. 
" The evidence of fenfe is, when we frame a 
" propofition according to the dictate of any 
" of our fenfes. So we judge, that grafs is 
" green ; that a trumpet gives a pie af ant found ; 
" that fire burns wood ; %vater is foft ; and 
" iron hard.*'' 

In this meaning, judgment extends to every 
kind of evidence, probable or certain, and to 
every degree of affent or difient. It extends to 
all knowledge as well as to ail opinion ; with 
this difference only, that in knowledge it is 
more firm and fteady, like a houfe founded 
upon a rock. In opinion it flands upon a 
weaker foundation, and is more liable to be 
iliaken and overturned. 

Thefe differences about the meaning of 
words are not mentioned as if truth was on one 
fide, and error on the other, but as an apolo- 
gy for deviating in this inftance from the phra- 


214 ESSAY VI. 


C H A P.feology of Mr. Locke, which is for the mod 
part accurate and diftinft ; and becaufq atten- 
tion to the different meanings that are put up- 
on words by different authors is the beft way 
to prevent our miflaking verbal differences for 
real differences of opinion. 

The common theory concerning ideas natu- 
rally leads to a theory concerning judgment, 
which may be a proper teft of its truth ; for as 
they are neceffarily connected, they muff ftand 
or fall together : Their connection is thus ex- 
preffed by Mr. Locke, book 4. chap. i. 
" Since the mind, in all its thoughts and rea- 
" fonings, hath no other immediate objeft 
" but its own ideas, which it alone does, or 
" can contemplate, it is evident that our 
" knowledge is only converfant about them. 
" Knowledge then ieems to me to be nothing 
" but the perception of the connexion, and agree- 
" ment or difagreement and repugnancy of any 
" of our ideas. In this alone it confifis.^' 

There can only be one objedion to the juf- 
tice of this inference ; and that is, that the an- 
tecedent proportion from which it is inferred, 
feems to have fome ambiguity : For, in the 
firft claufe of that propofition, the mind is 
faid to have no other immediate object but its 
own ideas ; in the fecond, that it has no other 
object at all j that it does or can contemplate 
ideas alone. 

If the word immediate in the lirfl claufe be a 
mere expletive, and be not intended to limit 
the generality of the propofition, then the two 
claufes will be perfectly confident, the fecond 
being only a repetition or explication of the 
firft ; and the inference that our knowledge is 
only converfant about ideas, will be perfectly 
juft and logical. 


SENTIMENTS concerning JUDG:>IENT. 215 

But if the word immediate in the firfl claufe CHAP, 
be intended to limit the general propofition, 
and to imply, that the mind has other cbjcds 
befides its own ideas, though no other imme- 
diate objeds ; then it will not be true that it 
does or can contemplate ideas alone j nor will 
the inference be juflly drawn, that our know- 
ledge is only converfant about ideas. 

Mr. Locke muft either have meant his an- 
tecedent propofition, without any limitation 
by the word immediate^ or he muft have meant 
to limit it by that word, and to fignify that 
there are objedls of the mind which are not 

The firfl of thefe fuppofitions appears to me 
mofl probable, for feveral reafons. 

Firji^ Becaufe, when he purpofely defines 
the word idea^ in the introdudion to the EiTay, 
he fays it is whatfoever is the object of the un- 
derftanding when a man thinks ; or whatever 
the mind can be employed about in thinking. 
Here there is no room l^ft for objects of the 
mind that are not ideas. The fame definition 
is often repeated throughout the Effky. Some- 
times, indeed, the word immediate is added, 
as in the palTage now under confideration ; but 
there is no intimation made that it ought to be 
underftood when it is not exprefled. Now if 
it had really been his opinion, that there are 
objects of thought which are not ideas, this 
definition, which is the ground work of the 
whole Effay, would have been very improper, 
and apt to miflead his reader. 

Secondly, He has never attempted to fliow 
how there can be obje£ts of thought, which 
are not immediate objects ; and indeed this 
feems impoihble. For whatever the obje£t be, 


ii6 ESSAY VI. 

CH A P. the man either thinks of it, or he does not. 
I^^- There is no medium between thefe. It he 
thinks of it, it is an immediate object of 
thought while he thinks of it. If he does not 
think of it, it is no objecl of thought at alh 
Every object of thought, therefore, is an im- 
mediate objecl of thought, and the word inune- 
diatc^ joined to objects of thought, feems to be 
a mere expletive. 

Thirdly^ Though Malebranche and Bi- 
fhop Berkeley beheved, that we have no 
ideas of minds, or of the operations of minds, 
and that we may think and reafon about them 
without ideas, this was not the opinion of Mr. 
Locke. He thought that there are ideas of 
minds, and of their operations, as well as of 
the objects of fenfe ; that the mind perceives 
nothing but its own ideas, and that all words 
are the figns of ideas. 

A fourth reafon is. That to fuppofe that he 
intended to limit the antecedent propofition by 
the word i?n?uediate, is to impute to him a 
blunder in reafoning, which I do not think 
Mr. Locke could have committed : for what 
can be a more glaring paralogifm than to infer, 
that fince ideas are partly, though not folely, 
the objects of thought, it is evident that all our 
knowledge is only converfant about them. If, 
on the contrary, he meant that ideas are the 
only objeds of thought, then the conclufion 
drawn is perfectly juil and obvious ; and he 
might very well fay, that fmce it is ideas only 
that the mind does or can contemplate^ it is evi- 
dent that our knoivledge is only converfant about 

As to the conclufion itfelf, I have only to 
obferve, that though he extends it only to 


SENTIMENTS concerning JUDGMENT. 217 

what he calls knowledge, and not to what heC H A P^, 
calls judgment, there is the fame reafon for ^^^• 
extending it to both. *'*^ 

It is true of judgment, as well as of know- 
ledge, that it can only be converfant about ob- 
jects of the mind, or about things which the 
mind can contemplate. Judgment, as well as 
knowledge, fuppofes the conception of the ob- 
ject about which we judge ; and to judge of 
objects that never were nor can be objefts of 
the mind, is evidently impoffible. 

This therefore we may take for granted, 
that if knowledge be converfant about ideas 
only, becaufe there is no other object of the 
mind, it muft be no lefs certain, that judg- 
ment is converfant about ideas only, for the 
fame reafon. 

Mr. Locke adds, as the refult of his rea- 
foning. Knowledge then feems to me to be 
nothing but the perception of the connettion 
and agreement, or difagreement and repug- 
nancy, of any of our ideas. In this alone it 

This is a very important point, not only on 
its own account, but on account of its necef- 
fary connection with his fyflem concerning 
ideas, which is fuch, as that both muft ft and 
or fall together ; for if there is any part of 
human knowledge which does not confift in 
the perception of the agreement or difagree- 
ment of ideas, it muft "follow, that there are 
objeds of thought and of contemplation which 
are not ideas. 

This point, therefore, deferves to be care- 
fully examined. With this view, let us firft 
attend to its meaning, which I think can hard- 


2 E S S A Y VI. 

C H A be miflaken, though it may need fome ex- 
^^I- plication. 

Every point of knowledge, and every judg- 
ment, is exprcfled by a propofition, wherein 
fomething is affirmed or denied of the fubjedt 
of the propofition. 

By perceiving the conne6tion or agreement 
of two ideas, I conceive is meant perceiving 
the truth of an affirmative propofition, of 
which the fubject and predicate are ideas. In 
like manner, by perceiving the dMagreement 
and repugnancy of any two ideas, I conceive 
is meant perceiving the truth of a negative 
propofition, of which both fubjed: and predi- 
cate are ideas. This I take to be the only 
meaning the words can bear, and it is confir- 
med by what Mr. Locke fays in a paflage al- 
readed quoted in this chapter, that " the 
" mind, taking its ideas to agree or difagree, 
" is the fame as taking any propofition to be 
" true or falfe." Therefore, if the definition 
of knowledge given by Mr. Locke be a juft 
one, the fubjed, as well as the predicate of 
every propofition, by which any point of know- 
ledge is expreffed, mud be an idea, and can 
be nothing elfe ; and the fame mud hold of 
every propofition by which judgment is ex- 
preffed, as has been fhown above. 

Having afcertained the mtaiiing of this de- 
finition of human knowledge, we are next to 
confider how far it is jufl. 

Firft^ I would obferve, that if the word idea be 
taken in the meaning which it had at firft among 
the Pythagoreans and Platonills, and if by 
knowledge be meant only abdrad and general 
knowledge, (which I believe Mr. Locke had 
chiefly in his view,) I think the propofition is 


SENTIMENTS concerning JUDGMENT. 219 

true, that fuch knowledge confifls f^'dy ir 
perceiving the truth oF propofitions whofc fub- 
jedt and predicate are ideas, 

By ideas here I mean things conceived ab- 
flradly, without regard to their exiflence : 
We commonly call them abflrai!^ notions, ab- 
ftract conceptions, abfhrad: ideas ; the Peripa- 
tetics called them univerfals ; and the Plato- 
nifts, who knew no other ideas, called them 
ideas without addition. 

Such ideas are both fubjedl and predicate 
in every propofition which expreffes abftracl 

The whole body of pure mathematics is an 
abftratt fcience ; and in every mathematical 
propofition, both fubjeft and predicate are 
ideas, in the fenfe above explained. Thus, 
when I fay the fide of a fquare is not commen- 
furable to its diagonal : In this propofition 
the fide and the diagonal of a fquare are the fub- 
jecls, (for being a relative propofition it muft 
have two fubjefts.) A fquare, its fide, and 
its diagonal, are ideas or univerfals ; they are 
not individuals, but things predicable of many 
individuals. Exiftence is not included in their 
definition, nor in the conception we form of 
them. The predicate of the propofition is com- 
menfurahle^ which mud be an univerfal, as the 
predicate of every propofition is ^o. In other 
branches of knowledge many abftract truths 
may be found, but, for the moft part, mixed 
with others that are not abilrad. 

I add, that I apprehend that what is flriclly 
called demonflrative evidence, is to be found 
in abflraft knowledge only. This was the 
opinion of Aristotle, of Plato, and I think 
of all the ancient Philofophers ; and I believe 


220 ESSAY VI. 

C H A this they judged right. It Is true, we often 
^"' meet with demonilration in agronomy, in me- 
'"^^"''^^ chanics, and in other branches of natural phi- 
lofophy ; but I believe we fhall always find that 
fuch demonftrations are grounded upon prin- 
ciples or fuppofitions, which have neither inr> 
tuitive nor demonftrative evidence. 

Thus when we demonftrate, that the path of 
a projedile in vacuo is a parabola, we fuppofe 
that it is acted upon with the fame force, and 
in the fame direction through its whole path 
by gravity. This is not intuitively known, 
nor is it demonftrable : And in the demonftra- 
tion, we reafon from the laws of motion, 
which are principles not capable of demonflra- 
tion, bait grounded on a diiferent kind of evi- 

Ideas, in the fenfe above explained, are 
creatures of the mind ; they are fabricated by 
its rational powers ; we know their nature and 
their eifence ; for they are nothing more than 
they are conceived to be : And becaufe they 
are perfectly known, we can reafon about them 
with the highefl degree of evidence. 

And as they are not things that exift, but 
things conceived, they neither have place nor 
time, nor are they liable to change. 

When we fay that they are in the mind, this 
can mean no more but that they are conceived 
by the mind, or that they are objec'rs of thought. 
The ad: of conceiving them is no doubt in the 
mind ; the things conceived have no place, be- 
caufe they have not exiftcnce. Thus a circle, 
confidered abftractly, is faid figuratively to be 
in the mind of him that conceives it ; but in 
no other fenfe than the city of London or the 
kingdom of France is faid to be in his min4 
when he thinks of thofe objects. 


SENTIMEKTS concerning JUDGMENT. 221 

Place and time belong to finite things that^ HAP. 
exift, but not to things that are barely con- 
ceived. They may be objeds of conception to 
intelligent beings in every place, and at all 
times. Hence the Pythagoreans and Platonifts 
were led to think that they are eternal and 
omniprefent. If they had exiftence, they muft 
be fo ; for they have no relation to any one 
place or time, which they have not to every 
place and to every time. 

The natural prejudice of mankind, that what 
we conceive muft have exiftence, led thofe an- 
cient Philofophers to attribute exiftence to 
ideas ; and by this they were led into all the 
extravagant and myfterious parts of their fyf- 
tem. When it is purged of thefe, 1 apprehend 
it to be the only intelligible and rational fyftem 
concerning ideas. 

I agree with them, therefore, that ideas are 
immutably the fame in all times and places : 
For this means no more but that a circle is 
always a circle, and a fquare always a fquare. 

I agree with them, that ideas are the pat- 
terns or exemplars, by which every thing was 
made that had a beginning : For an intelligent 
artificer muft conceive his work before it is 
made ; he makes it according to that concep- 
tion ; and the thing conceived, before it ex- 
ifts, can only be an idea. 

I agree with them, that every fpecies of 
things confidered abftraclly is an idea : and 
that the idea of the fpecies is in every indivi- 
dual of the fpecies, without divifion or multi- 
plication. This indeed is expreHed fomewhat 
myfterioufly, according to the manner of the 
fed J but it may eafily be explained. 


222 ESSAY VI. 

Every idea is an attribute ; and it is a com- 
mon way of fpeaking, to fay, that the attri- 
bute is in every fubjecl of which it may truly 
be affirmed. Thus, to be above jifty years of 
age, is an attribute or idea. This attribute 
may be in, or affirmed of,' fifty diffisrent indi- 
viduals, and be the fame in all, without divi- 
fion or multiplication. 

I think, that not only every fpecies, but 
every genus, higher or lower, and every at- 
tribute confidered abflractly, is an idea. Thefe 
are things conceived without regard to exifl- 
cncc : they are univerfals, and therefore ideas, 
according to the ancient meaning of that 

It is true, that, after the Platonifts entered 
into difputes with the Peripatetics, in order to 
defend the exiftence of eternal ideas, they 
found it prudent to contraft the line of defence, 
and maintained only that there is an idea of 
every fpecies of natural things, but not of the 
genera, nor of things artificial. They were 
unvviUing to multiply beings beyond what was 
neccffary ; but in this I think they departed 
from the genuine principles of their fyftem. 

The definition of a fpecies, is nothing but 
the definition of the genus, with the addition 
of a fpecific difference ; and the divifion of 
things into fpecies is the work of the mind, as 
well as their divifion into genera and claflfes. 
A fpecies, a genus, an order, a clafs, is only 
a combination of attributes miade by the mind, 
and called by one name. There is therefore 
the fame reafon for giving the name of idea to 
every attribute, and to every fpecies and genus, 
whether higher or lower : Thefe are only more 
complex attributes, or combinations of the 


SENTIMENTS concermvg JUDGME NT. 223 

more fimple. And though it might be impro-^ HAP, 
per, without neceflity, to multiply beings, ^ ' 
which they believed to have a real exiftence ; 
yet, had they feen that ideas are not things that 
exift, but things that are conceived, they would 
have apprehended no danger nor expence from 
their number. 

Simple attributes, fpecies and genera, lower 
or higher, are all things conceived without re- 
gard to exiftence ; they are univerfals ; they 
are expreffed by general words ; and have an 
equal title to be called by the name of ideas. 

I hkewife agree with thofe ancient Philofo- 
phers, that ideas are the obje6t, and the fole 
obje£t of fcience, ftri£lly fo called ; that is, of 
demonftrative reafoning. 

And as ideas are immutable, fo their agree- 
ments and difagreements, and all their relations 
and attributes, are immutable. All mathema- 
tical truths are immutably true. Like the 
ideas about which they are converfant, they 
have no relation to time or place, no depen- 
dence upon exiftence or change. That the 
angles of a plane triangle are equal to two 
right angles, always was and always will be 
true, though no triangle had ever exifted. 

The fame may be faid of all abftradl truths. 
On that account they have often been called 
eternal truths : And for the fame reafon the 
Pythagoreans afcribed eternity to the ideas 
about which they are converfant. They may 
very properly be called neceflary truths ; be- 
caufe it is impoflible they (hould not be true at 
all times and in all places. 

Such is the nature of all truth that can be 
difcovered, by perceiving the agreements and 
difagreements of ideas, when we take that word 
in its primitive fenfe. And that Mr. Locke, 





C H A P. In his definition of knowledge, had chiefly in 
|- his view abftraft truths, we may be led to 
^ think from the examples he gives to illuftrate 

But there is another great clafs of truths, 
which are not abftraft and neceflary, and there- 
fore cannot be perceived in the agreements 
and difagreements of ideas. Thefe are all the 
truths we know concerning the real exiflence 
6f things ; the ruth of our own exiflence ; of 
tlic exigence of other things, inanimate, 
animal and rational, and of their various attri- 
butes and relations. 

Thefe truths may be called contingent 
truths. I except only the exiflence and attri- 
butes of the Supreme Being, which is the only 
neceffary truth I know regarding exiflence. 

All other beings that exift, depend for their 
exiflence, and all that belongs to it, upon the 
will and power of the firfl caufe ; therefore, 
neither their exiflence, nor their nature, nor 
any thing that befals them, is necelTary, but 

But although the exiflence of the Deity be 
neceffary, I apprehend w'e can only deduce it 
from contingent truths. The only arguments 
for the exiflence of a Deity which I am able to 
comprehend, are grounded upon the know- 
ledge of my own exiflence, and the exiflence 
of other finite beings. But thefe are contin- 
gent truths. 

I believe, therefore, that by perceiving 
agreements and difagreements of ideas, no con- 
tingent truth whatfoever can be known, nor 
the real exiflence of any thing, not even our 
own exiflence, nor the exiflence of a Dqity, 
which is a neceifary truth. Thus I have en- 

SENTIMENTS concerning JUDGMENT. 225 

deavoured to fhew what knowledge may, and CHAP, 
what cannot be attained, by perceiving the ^^^• 
agreements and difagi eements of ideas, when ^"""^^"'^ 
•we take that word in its primitive fenfe. 

We are, in the next place, to confider, whe- 
ther knowledge confifts in perceiving the agree- 
ment or difagreement of ideas, takin<^ ideas in 
any of the fenfes in which the word is ufed by 
Mr. Locke and other modern Philofophers. 

1. Very often the word idea is ufed fo, that 
to have the idea of any thing is ?iperiphrafis for 
conceiving it. In this fenfe, an idea is not an 
objed of thought, it is thought itfclf. It is the 
a6t of the mind by which we conceive any ob- 
ject. And it is evident that this could not be 
the meaning which Mr. Locke had in view in 
his definition of knowledge. 

2. A fecond meaning of the word idea is 
that which Mr. Locke gives in the introduc- 
tion to his Eifay, when he is making an apolo- 
gy for the frequent ufe of it. *' It being that 
" term, I think, which ferves bed to (land for 
" whatfoever is the obje6t of the underftand- 
*' ing when a man thinks, or whatever it is 
*' which a man can be employed about in 
" thinking.'* 

By this definition, indeed, every thing that 
can be the objeft of thought is an idea. The 
objects of our thoughts may, I think, be redu- 
ced to two clalfes. 

The firft clals comprehends all thofe obje£ts 
which we not only can think of, but which we 
believe to have a real exiflence. Such as the 
Creator of all things, and all his creatures that 
fall within our notice. I can think of the fun 
and moon, the earth and fea, and of the vari- 
ous animal, vegetable, and inanimate produc- 

VoL. II. Q^ tions 


C H A P.tions with which it hath pleafed the bountiful 
^^^- Creator to enrich our globe. I can think of 
myfelf, of my friends and acquaintance. I 
think of the author of the Effay with high 
efteem. Thefe, and fuch as thefe, are objefts 
of the underftanding which we believe to have 
real exigence. 

A fecond clafs of objects of the underftand- 
ing which a man may be employed about in 
thinking, are things which we either believe 
never to have exifted, or Vvhich we think of 
without regard to their exiftence. 

Thus, I can think of Don Quixote, of 
the ifland of Laputa, of Oceana, and of 
Utopia, which I believe never to have exifted. 
Every attribute, every fpecies, and every ge- 
nus of things, confidered abftradly, without 
any regard to their exiftence or non-exiftence, 
may be an objeft of the underftanding. 

To this fecond clafs of objeds of the under- 
ftanding, the name of idea does very properly 
belong, according to the primitive fenfe of the 
word, and I have already confidered what 
knowledge does, and what does not confift in 
perceiving the agreements and difagreements 
of fuch ideas. 

But if we take the word idea in fo extenfive 
a fenfe as to comprehend, not only the fecond, 
but alfo the firft clafs of objecls of the under- 
ftanding, it will undoubtedly be true, that all 
knowledge confifts in perceiving the agree- 
ments and difagreements of ideas: For it is 
impoflible that there can be any knowledge, 
any judgment, any opinion, true or falfe, 
which is not employed about the objecls of 
the underftanding. But whatfoever is an ob- 


SENTIMENTS concerning JUDGMENT. 227 

je6t of the underftanding is an idea, according ^ ^j^ P* 
to this fecond meaning of the word. o-^r— » 

Yet I am perfuaded that Mr. Locke, in his 
definition of knowledge, did not mean that 
the word idea fhould extend to all thofe things 
which we commonly confider as objects of the 

Though Bifhop Berkeley believed that 
fun, moon, and ftars, and all material things, 
are ideas, and nothing but ideas, Mr. Locke 
no where profeifes this opinion. He believed 
that we have ideas of bodies, but not that 
bodies are ideas. In like manner, he believed 
that we have ideas of minds, but not that 
minds are ideas. When he enquired fo care- 
fully into the origin of all our ideas, he did 
not furely mean to find the origin of whatfo- 
ever may be the objeft of the underftanding, 
nor to refolve the origin of every thing that 
may be an object of underftanding into fenfa- 
tion and refledion. 

3. Setting afide, therefore, the two mean- 
ings of the word idea before mentioned, as 
meanings which Mr. Locke could not have 
in his view in the definition he gives of know- 
ledge, the only meaning that could be intend- 
(6d in this place is that which I before called 
the Philofophical meaning of the word idea, 
tvhich hath a reference to the theory commonly 
received about the manner in which the mind 
perceives external objects, and in which it re- 
members and conceives objefts that are not 
prefent to it. It is a very ancient opinion, 
and has been very generally received among 
Philofopers, that we cannot perceive or think 
of fuch obje(^s immediately, but by the medi- 
(^2 um 

228 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP, um of certain images or reprefentatives of 
^^^- them really exiting in the mind at the time. 
"'''■"'' To thofe images the ancients gave the name 
of fpecies and phantafms. Modern Philofo- 
phers have given them the name of ideas. 
" 'Tis evident," fays Mr. Locke, book 4. 
ch. 4. " the mind knows not things immedi- 
" ately, but only by the intervention of the 
" ideas it has of them." And in the fame pa- 
ragraph he puts this queflion: " How fhall the 
" mind, when it perceives nothing but its 
" own ideas, know that they agree with 
" things themfelves?" 

This theory I have already confidered, in 
treating of perception, of memory, and of 
conception. The reader will there find the 
reafons that lead me to think, that it has no 
folid foundation in reafon, or in attentive re- 
flection upon thofe operations of our minds; 
that it contradids the immediate diftates of 
our natural faculties, which are of higher au- 
thority than any theory; that it has taken its 
rife from the fame prejudices which led all the 
ancient Philofophers to think that the Deity 
could not make this world without fome eter- 
nal matter to work upon, and which led the 
Pythagoreans and Platonifts to think, that he 
could not conceive the plan of the world he 
was to make without eternal ideas really exift- 
ing as patterns to work by ; and that this theo- 
ry, when its neceflary confequences are fairly 
purfued, leads to abfolute fcepticifm, though 
thofe confequences were not feen by moft of 
the Philofophers who have adopted it. 

I have no intention to repeat what has be- 
fore been faid upon thofe points; but only, 
taking ideas in this fenfe, to make fome obfer- 


SENTIMENTS concerning JUDGMENT. 229 

vations upon the definition which Mr. Locke CHAP. 
gives of knowledge. 

Firjl, If all knowledge confills in perceiving 
the agreements and difagreements of ideas, 
that is, of reprefentative images of things ex- 
ifling in the mind, it obvioufly follows, that 
if there be no fuch ideas, there can be no 
knowledge: So that, if there fliould be found 
good reafon for giving up this philofophical 
hypothefis, all knowledge mufl go along with 

I hope, however, it is not fo; and that 
though this hypothefis, like many others, 
Ihould totter and fall to the ground, knowledge 
will continue to ftand firm, upon a more per- 
manent bafis. 

The cycles and epicycles of the ancient Af- 
tronomers were for a thoufand years thought 
abfolutely neceflary to explain the motions of 
the heavenly bodies. Yet now, when all men 
believe them to have been mere fiftions, aftro- 
nomy has not fallen with them, but (lands up- 
on a more rational foundation than before. 
Ideas, or images of things exifting in the 
mind, have for a longer time been thought 
neceflary for explaining the operations of the 
underftanding. If they Ihould likevvife at lafl 
be found to be fictions, human knowledge 
and judgment would fuft'er nothing, by being 
difengaged from an unwieldly hypothefis. Mr. 
Locke furely did not look upon the exiftence 
of ideas as a philofophical hypothefis. He 
thought that we are coiifcious of their exif- 
tence, otherwife he would not have made the 
exiftence of all our knowledge to depend upon 
the exiftence of ideas. 


230 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP. Secondly, Suppofing this hypyothefis to be 
vJy-^ true, I agree \yith Mr. Locke, that it is an 
~^ " evident and necellary confequence that our 
knowledge can be converfant about ideas only, 
and mull confift in perceiving their attributes 
and relations. For nothing can be more evi- 
dent than this, that all knowledge, and all 
judgment and opinion, muft be about things 
which are or may be immediate objects of our 
thought. What cannot be the obje£t of 
thought, or the object of the mind in think- 
ing, cannot be the obje<Et of knowledge or of 

Every thing we can know of any objeft muft 
be either fome attribute of the object, or fome 
relation it bears to fome other object or objefts. 
By the agreements and difagreements of ob- 
je6ts, I apprehend Mr. Locke intended to ex- 
prefs both their attributes and their relations. 
If ideas then be the only objects of thought, 
the confequence is neceifary, that they muft be 
the only objefts of knowledge, and all know- 
ledge muft confift in perceiving their agree- 
ments and difagreements, that is, their attri- 
butes and relations. 

The ufe I would make of this confequence, 
is to fhow that the hypothecs muft be falfe, 
from which it neceffarily follows : For if we 
have any knowledge of things that are not 
ideas, it will follow no lefs evidently, that 
ideas are not the only objects of our thoughts. 

Mr. Locke has pointed out the extent and 
limits of human knowledge in his fourth book, 
with more accuracy and judgment than any 
Philofopher had done before; but he has not 
confined it to the agreements and difagree- 
ments of ideas. And I cannot help thinking, 


SENTIMENTS concfrnln^ JUDGMENT. 231 

that a great part of that book is an evident re-C H A P. 
futation of the principles laid down in the be- ^^^' 
ginning of it. 

Mr. Locke did not believe that he himfeli 
was an idea ; that his friends and acquaintance 
were ideas j that the Supreme Being, to fpeak 
with reverence, is an idea ; or that the fun and 
moon, the earth and the fea, and other exter- 
nal objeds of fenfej are ideas. He believed 
that he had foine certain knovi^lcdge of all thofe 
objects. His knowledge, therefore, did not 
confift folely in perceiving the agreements and 
difagrcements of his ideas : For, furely, to 
perceive the exiftence, the attributes, and re- 
lations of things, which are not ideas, is not 
to perceive the agreements and difagreements 
ot ideas. And if things which are not ideas 
be objects of knowledge, they muft be obje<3:s 
of thought. On the contrary, if ideas be the 
only objects of thought, there can be no know- 
ledge either of oUr dwn exiftence, or of the 
exiftence of external objeds, or of the exif- 
tence of a Deity. 

This confequence, as far as concerns the 
exiftence of external objects of fenfe, was af- 
terwards deduced from the theory of ideas by 
Biftiop Berkeley with the cleareft evidence ; 
and that author chdfe rather to adopt the con- 
fequence than to reje£t the theory on which it 
was grounded. But, with regard to the ex- 
iftence of our own minds, of other minds, and 
of a Supreme Mind, the Bifhop, that he might 
avoid the confequence, rejected a part of the 
theory, and maintained, that we can think of 
of minds, of their attributes and relations, 
without ideas, 



Mr. Hume faw very clearly the confequen- 
ces of this theory, and adopted them in his 
fpeculative moments ; but candidly acknow- 
ledges, that, in the common bufmefs of life, 
he found himfelf under a neceffity of believing 
with the vulgar. His Treatife of Human Na- 
ture is the only fyflem to which the theory of 
ideas leads ; and, in my apprehenfion, is, in 
all its parts, the neceffary confequence of that 

Mr. Locke, however, did not fee all the 
confequences of that theory ; he adopted it 
without doubt or examination, carried along 
by the ftream of Philofophers that went before 
him ; and his judgment and good fenfe have 
led him to fay many things, and to believe 
many things that cannot be reconciled to it. 

He not only believed his own exiftence, the 
exiflence of external things, and the exiftence 
of a Deitv ; but he has fhown very juflly how 
we come by the knowledge of thefe exiflen- 

It might here be expected, that he fhould 
have pointed out the agreements and difagree- 
mcnts of ideas from which thefe exillences are 
deduced ; but this is impoffible, and he has 
not even attempted it. 

Our own exiftence, he obferves, ive know 
intuitively ; but this intuition is not a percep- 
tion of the agreement or difagreement of ideas ; 
for the fubjedt of thepropofition, lex'iji, is not 
an idea, but a perfon. 

The knowledge of external objects of fenfe, 
he obferves, -we can have only by fenfation. 
This fenfation he afterwards exprefles more 
clearly by the tejlimony of our fenjes, which are 
the proper and fole judges of this tl/mg ; whofe 


SENTIMENTS concerning JUDGMENT. 233 

tcftimony is the greateji ajfurance we can po/Jtbly^ HAP. 
have, and to which our faculties can attain. ' 

This is perfedly agreeable to the common 
fenfe of mankind, and is perfedly underftood 
Jby thofe who never heard of the theory ot 
ideas. Our fenfes teflify immediately the ex- 
iftence, and many of the attributes and relati- 
ons of external material beings ; and, by our 
conftitution, we rely with aflurance upon their 
teftimony, without feeking a reafon for doing 
io. This aflurance, Mr. Locke acknowledg- 
es, deferves the name of knowledge. But thofe 
external things are not ideas, nor are their at- 
tributes and relations the agreements and dif- 
agreements of ideas, but the agreements and 
difagreements of things which are not ideas. 

To reconcile this to the theory of ideas, 
Mr, Locke fays. That it is the adual receiving 
of ideas from without that gives us notice of the 
exi/ience of thofe external things. 

This, if underftood literally, would lead us 
back to the dodlrine of Aristotle, that our 
ideas or fpecies come from without from the 
external objects, and are the image or form of 
thofe objedts. But Mr. Locke, I believe, 
meant no more by it, but that our ideas of 
fenfe muft have a caufe, and that we are not 
the caufe of them ourfelves. 

Bifhop Berkeley acknowledges all this, 
and fhews very clearly, that it does not afford 
the lead fliadow of reafon for the belief of any 
material objedt. Nay, that there can be no- 
thing external that has any refemblance to our 
ideas but the ideas of other minds. 

It is evident, therefore, that the agree- 
ments and difagreements of ideas can give us 
no knowledge of the exiflence of any material 


234 ESSAY VI. 

P-thing. If any knowledge can be attained of 
things which are not ideas, that knowledge is 
a perception of agreements and difagreements, 
not of ideas, but of things that are not ideas. 

As to the exiftence of a Deity, though Mr. 
Locke was aware that Des Cartes, and ma- 
ny after him, had attempted to prove it merely 
from the agreements and difagreements of 
ideas ; yet " he thought it an ill way of efta- 
" bHfhing that truth, and filencing Atheifts, 
*' to lay the whole ftrefs of fo important a 
" point upon that fole foundation.'* And 
therefore he proves this point with great 
ftrength and folidity, from our exiftence, and 
the exiftence of the fenfible parts of the uni- 
verfe. By memory, Mr. Locke fays, we have 
the knowledge of the paft exiftence of feveral 
things : But all conception of paft exiftence, 
as well as of external exiftence, is irreconcilea- 
ble to the theory of ideas ; becaufe it fuppofes 
that there may be immediate objefts of thought, 
■which are not ideas prefently exifting in the 

I conclude therefore, that if we have any 
knowledge of our own exiftence, or of the exif- 
tence of what we fee about us, or of the ex- 
iftence of a Supreme Being ; or if we have 
any knov/ledge of things paft by memory, that 
knowledge cannot confift in perceiving the 
agreements and difagreements of ideas. 

This conclufion, indeed, is evident of itfelf: 
For if knowledge conftfts folely in the percep- 
tion of the agreement or difagreemeiit of ideas, 
there can be no knowledge of any propofition 
which does not exprefs fome agreement or dif- 
agreement of ideas ; confequently there can 
be no knowledge of any propofition, which 
exprelles either the exiftence, or the attributes 



or relations of things, which are not ideas. ^^^ 

If therefore the theory of ideas be true, there w.-v-*j 
can be no knowledge of any thing but of ideas. 
And, on the other hand, if we have any know- 
ledge of any thing befides ideas, that theory 
mufl be falfe. 

There can be no knowledge, no judgment, 
or opinion about things which are not imme- 
diate objects of thought. This I take to be 
felf-evident. If, therefore, ideas be the only 
immediate objects of thought, they mud be the 
only things in nature of which we can have 
any knowledge, and about which we can have 
any judgment or opinion. 

This neceflary confequence of the^common 
doftrine of ideas Mr. Hume faw, and has 
made evident in his Treatife of Human Na- 
ture ; but the ufe he made of it was not to 
overturn the theory with which it is neceflarily 
connected, but to overturn all knowledge, 
and to leave no ground to believe any thing 
whatfoever. If Mr. Locke had feen this con- 
fequence, there is reafon to think that he would 
have made another ufe of it. 

That a man of Mr. Locke's judgment and 
penetration did not perceive a confequence fo 
evident, feems indeed very ftrange ; and I 
know no other account that can be given of it 
but this, that the ambiguity of the word idea 
has milled him in this, as in feveral other in- 
ftances. Having at firfl: defined ideas to be 
whatfoever is the objedt of the underft anding 
when we think, he takes it very often in that 
unlimited fenfc ; and fo every thing that can 
be an object of thought is an idea. At other 
times, he ufes the word to fignify certain re- 
prefentative images of things in ths mind, 


23^ ESSAY VI. 

^^TT^ ^ which Philofophers have fuppofed to be imme- 
^^,.._^^ diate objefts of thought. At other times, 
things conceived abftradly, v/ithout regard to 
their exiflence, are called ideas. Philofophy 
is much indebted to Mr. Locke for his obfer- 
vations on the abufe of words. It is pity he 
did not apply thefe obfervations to the word 
idea, the ambiguity and abufe of which has 
very much hurt his excellent Efiay. 

There are fome other opinions of Philofo- 
phers concerning judgment, of which I think 
it unneceffary to fay much. 

Mr. Hume fometimes adopts Mr. Locke's 
opinion, that it is the perception of the agree- 
ment or difagreement of our ideas ; fometimes 
he maintains, that judgment and reafoning re- 
folve themfelves into conception, and are no- 
thing but particular ways of conceiving objects ; 
and he fays, that an opinion or belief may 
mod accurately be defined, a lively idea related 
to or ajfociated with a prefent imprejjion, Treatife 
of Human Nature, vol. i. page 172. 

I have endeavoured before, in the firfl: chap- 
ter of this ElTay, to fhew that judgment is an 
operation of mind fpecifically diilincl from the 
bare conception of an objedt. I have alfo con- 
fidered his notion of belief, in treating of the 
theories concerning memory. 

Dr. Hartley fays, " That aiTent and 
" dilfent muft come under the notion of ideas, 
" being only thofe very complex internal feel- 
" ings which adhere by alTociation to fuch 
" clufters of words as are called propofitions 
" in general, or affirmations and negations in 
" particular.'* 

This, if 1 underfland its meaning, agrees 
with the opinion of Mr. Hume above men- 


tioned, and has therefore been before con- C H A P, 
fidered. ^ . _"L 

Dr. Priestly has given another definition 
of judgment. " It is nothing more than the 
" perception of the univerfal concurrence, or 
" the perfect coincidence of two ideas ; or the 
'' want of that concurrence or coincidence.^* 
'' This I think coincides with Mr. Locke's de- 
" finition, and therefore has been already 
*' confidered." 

There are many particulars which deferve to 
be known, and which might very properly be 
confidered in this Effay on judgment ; concern- 
ing the various kinds of proportions by which 
our judgments are expreiTed ; their fubjefts 
and predicates ; their converfions and oppofi- 
tions : But as thefe are to be found in every 
fyftem of logic from^ Aristotle down to the 
prefent age, I think it unneceiTary to fwell this 
Eiiay with the repetition of what has been faid 
fo often. The remarks which have occurred 
to me upon what is commonly faid on thefe 
points, as well as upon the art of fyllogifm ; 
the utility of the fchool logic, and the improve- 
ments that may be made in it, may be found 
in a Short account (&/" Aristotle's Logic with 
Re/Jiarks, which Lord Kaimes has honoured 
with a place in his Sketchet of the Hijlory of 




Of Jirji Principles in General. 

N E of the moft Important diftin^lions of 
our judgments is, that feme of them are 
intuitive, others grounded on argument. 

It is not in our power to judge as we wilL 
The judgment is carried along neceflarily by 
the evidence, real or feeming, which appears 
to us at the time. But in propofitions that are 
fubmitted to our judgment, there is this great 
difference ; fome are of fuch a nature that a 
man of ripe underftanding may apprehend them 
diftinftly, and perfedly underftand their mean- 
ing without finding himfelf under any neceffity 
of believing them to be true or falfe, probable 
or improbable. The judgment remains in fuf- 
pence, until it is inchned to one fide or another 
by reafons or arguments. 

But there are other propofitloiis which are 
no fooner underftood than they are believed. 
The judgment follows the apprehenfion of them 
neceffarily, and both are equally the work of 
nature, and the refult of our original powers. 
There is no fearching for evidence, no weigh- 
ing of arguments ; the propofition is not dedu- 
ced or inferred from another ; it has the light 
of truth in itfelf, and has no occafion to bor- 
row it from another. 

Propofitions of the laft kind, when they are 
ufed in matters of fcience, have commonly 
been called axioms ; and on whatever occafion 
they are ufed, are called^r/? principles, princi- 
ples of common fenfe, common notions, felf -evident 



truths. Cicero calls them Natura: jiidicia^dri A?, 
judicia communibus hominum fcnfihus infix a. ^"* 
Lord Shaftesbury exprelTes them by the ^ ' 
words, natural knowledge^ fundamental reafon, 
and common fenfe. 

What has been fald, I think, is fufficient to 
diftinguifti firft principles, or intuitive judg- 
ments, from thole which may be afcribed to 
the power of reafoning ; nor is it a jufl objec* 
tion againfl this diftinclion, that there may be 
fome judgments concerning which we may be 
dubious to which clafs they ought to be refer- 
red. There is a real diftindtion between per- 
fons within the houfe, and thofe that are with- 
out ; yet it may be dubious to which the man 
belongs that flands upon the threfhold. 

The power of reafoning, that is of drawing 
a conclufion from a chain of premifes, may 
with fome propriety be called an art. " All 
" reafoning,'* fays Mr. Locke, " is fearch 
" and carting about, and requires pains and 
" application." It refembles the power of 
walking, which is acquired by ufe and exer- 
cife. Nature prompts to it, and has given the 
power of acquiring it ; but mull be aided by 
frequent exercife before we are able to walk. 
After repeated efforts, much {fumbling, and 
many falls, we learn to walk ; and it is in a 
fmiilar manner that we learn to reafon. 

But the power of judging in felf-evident pro- 
pofitions, which are clearly underftood, may 
be compared to the power of fwallowing our 
food. It is purely natural, and therefore com- 
mon to the learned, and the unlearned ; to 
the trained, and the untrained : It requires 
ripenefs of underftanding, and freedom from 
prejudice, but nothing elfe. 

I take 

r4c ESSAY VI. 

I take it for granted, that there are felf-evi- 
dent principles. Nobody, I think, denies it. 
And if any man were fo fceptical as to deny 
that there is any propofition that is felf-evident, 
I fee not how it would be pofTible to convince 
him by reafoning. 

But yet there feems to be great difference of 
opinions among Philofophers about firft prin- 
ciples. What one takes to be felf-evident, 
another labours to prove by arguments, and, a 
third denies altogether. 

Thus, before the time of Des Cartes, it 
was taken for a firfl principle, that there is a 
fun and a moon, an earth and fea, which re- 
ally exift, whether we think of them or not. 
Des Cartes thought that the exiflence of 
thofe things ought to be proved by argument ; 
and in this he has been followed by Male- 
BRANCHE, Arnauld, and Locke. They 
have all laboured to prove, by very weak rea- 
foning, the exiitence of external objeds of 
fenfe ; and Berkeley and Hume, fenfible of 
the weaknefs of their arguments, have been 
led to deny their exiftence altogether. 

The ancient Philofophers granted, that all 
knowledge mufl be grounded on firfl princi- 
ples, and that there is no reafoning without 
them. The Peripatetic philofophy was redun- 
dant rather than deficient in firfl: principles. 
Perhaps the abufe of them in that ancient fyf- 
tem may have brought them into difcredit in 
modern times ; for as the befl things may be 
abufed, fo that abufe is apt to give a difgufl to 
the thing itfeif ; and as one extreme often leads 
into the oppofite, this feems to have been the 
cafe in the refpeft paid to firfl principles in an- 
cient and in modern times. 



Des Cartes thought one principle, expref-C HAP. 
fed in one word cogito, a fufficient foundation ^^,..^„.^ 
for his whole fyflem, and alked no more. 

Mr. Locke feems to think firfl principles of 
very fmall ufe. Knowledge confiding, ac- 
cording to him, in the perception of the agree- 
ment or difagreement of our ideas ; when we 
have clear ideas, and are able to compare them 
together, we may always fabricate firfl princi- 
ples as often as we have occafion for them. 
Such differences we find among Philofophers 
about firfl principles. 

It is likewife a queflioli of fome moment, 
whether the differences among m.en about firfl: 
principles can be brought to any iflue ? When, 
in difputes, one man maintains that to be a 
firfl principle, which another denies, common- 
ly both parties appeal to common fenfe, and 
fo the matter refls; Now, is there no way of 
difcuffmg this appeal ? Is there no mark or 
criterion, whereby firfl principles that are tru- 
ly fuch, may be diflinguifhed from thofe that 
affume the charafter without a jufl title ? I 
(hall humbly offer in the following propofitions 
what appears to me to be agreeable to truth in 
thefe matters, always ready to change my opi- 
nion upon convidion. 

I. Firji, I hold it to be certain, and even 
demonflrable. That all knowledge got by rea-- 
foning mufl be built upon firfl principles. 

This is as certain as that every houfe mufl; 
have a foundation. The power of reafoning, 
in this refpect, refembles the mechanical pow- 
ers or engines ; it mufl: have a fixed point to 
refl: upon, otherwife it fpends its force in the 
air, and produces no effect. 

Vol. IL R When 

242 ESSAY Yl. 

€ H A P. When we examine, in the way of analyi%y 
"• the evidence of any pFopofiticn, either we find 

^•^^^1^ it felf-evident, or it reds upon one or more 
propcfitions that fupport it. The fame thing 
may be faid of the propofitions that fupport it ; 
and of thofe that fupport them, as far back as 
we can go. But we cannot go back in this 
track to infinity. Where then mufi: this ana- 
lyfis ftop ? It is evident that it mufl flop only 
when we come to propofitions, which fupport 
all that are built upon them, but are themfelves 
fupported by none, that is, to felf-evident pro- 

Let us again confider a fynthetical proof of 
any kind, where we begin with the premifes, 
and purfue a train of confequences, until we 
come to the lad conclufion, or thing to be 
proved. Here we mufl begin, either with 
felf-evident propofitions, or with fuch as have 
been already proved. When the lafl is the 
cafe, theproof of the propofitions, thus afTumed, 
is a part of our proof ; and the proof is defici- 
ent without it. Suppofe then the deficiency 
fupplied, and the proof completed, is it not 
evident that it mufl fet out with felf-evident 
propofitions, and that the whole evidence mufl 
refl upon them ? So that it appears to be de» 
monflrable that, without firfl principles, ana- 
lytical reafoning could have no end, and fyn- 
thetical reafoning could have no beginning ; 
and that every conclufion got by reafoning 
mufl refl with its whole weight upon firfi prin- 
ciples, as the building does upon its founda- 

2. A fecond propofition is. That fome firfl 
principles yield conclufions that are certain, 



others fuch as are probable, in various de- C H A P. 
grees, from the higheft probabiHty to the low- ^^' 

In juft reafoning, the ftrength or wcaknefs 
of the conclufion will always correfpond to 
that of the principles on which it is grriunded. 

In a matter of teftimony, it is felf-evident, 
that the teftimony of two is better than that of 
one, fuppofing them equal in character, and 
in their means of knowledge ; yet the fimple 
teftimony may be true, and that which is pre- 
ferred to it may be falfe. 

When an experiment has fucceeded in fe- 
veral trials, and the circumftances have been 
marked with care, there is a felf-evident pro- 
bability of its fucceeding in a new trial ; but 
there is no certainty. The probabihty, in 
fome cafes, is much greater than in others ; 
becaufe, in fome cafes, it is much eafier to 
obferve all the circumftances that may have 
influence upon the event than in others. And 
it is poffible, that, after many experiments 
made with care, our expeftation may be fruf- 
trated in a fucceeding one, by the variation of 
fome circumftance that has not, or perhaps 
could not be obferved. 

Sir Isaac Newton has laid it down as a 
firft principle in natural philofophy, that a 
property which has been found in all bodies 
upon which we have had accefs to make expe- 
riments, and which has always been found in 
its quantity to be in exact proportion to the 
quantity of matter in every body, is to be held 
as an univerfal property of matter. 

This principle, as far as I know, has never 

been called in queftion. The evidence we 

have, that all matter is divifible, moveable, 

R 2 folid. 

244 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP.folId, and inert, Is refolveable into this prln-- 
^^^^^ ciple ; and if it be not true, we cannot have 
^'^^^^ any rational convidion that all matter has thofs 
properties. From the fame principle that great 
man has fhewn, that we have reafon to con- 
clude, that all bodies gravitate towards each 

This principle, however, has not that kind 
of evidence which mathematical axioms have. 
It is not a neceflary truth whofe contrary is 
impoffible ; nor did Sir Isaac ever conceive it 
to be fuch. And if it ihould ever be found, 
by juit experiments, that there is any part in- 
the compofition of fome bodies which has not 
gravity, the facl, if duly afcertained, muft be 
admitted as an exception to the general law of 

In games of chance, it is a firfl: principle, 
that every fide of a die has an equal chance to 
be turned up ; and that, in a lottery, every 
ticket has an equal chance of being drawn out. 
From fuch firfl principles as thefe, which are 
the befl we can have in fuch matters, we may 
deduce, by demonftrative reafoning, the pre- 
cife degree of probability of every event in fuch 

But the principles of all this accurate and 
profound reafoning can never yield a certain 
conclufion, it being impofTible to fupply a de- 
feft in the firfl principles by any accuracy in 
the reafoning that is grounded upon them. As 
water, by its gravity, can rife no higher in its 
courfe than the fountain, however artfully it 
be conduded ; fo no conclufion of reafoning 
can have a greater degree of evidence than the 
Brft principles from which it is drawn. 



From thefe inftances, it is evident, that as C H A. p. 
there are fome firft principles that yield con- ^^• 
clufions of abfolutc certainty ; fo there are ^— "v*^ 
others that can only yield probable conclufions ; 
and that the lowefl degree of probability muft 
be grounded on firft principles as well as abfo- 
lute certainty. 

3. A third proportion is, that it would con- 
tribute greatly to the ftability of human know- 
ledge, and confequently to the improvement 
of it, if the firft principles upon which the va- 
rious parts of it are grounded were pointed out 
and ascertained. 

We have ground to think fo, both from 
facts, and from the nature of the thing. 

Thei*e are two branches of human know- 
ledge in which this method has been followed, 
to wit, mathematics and natural philofophy ; 
in mathematics, as far as we have books. It 
is in this fcience only, that, for more than two 
thoufand years fmce it began to be cultivated, 
we find no feds, no contrary fyftems, and 
hardly any difputes ; or, if there have been dif- 
putes, they have ended as foon as the animo- 
lity of parties fubfided, and have never been 
again revived. The fcience, once firmly efta- 
blilhed upon the foundation of a few axioms 
and definitions, as upon a rock, has grown from 
age to age, fo as to become the loftieft and the 
moft folid fabric that human reafon can boaft. 

Natural philofophy, till lefs than two hun- 
dred years ago, remained in the fame flu<5tua- 
ting ftate with the other fcience s. Every new 
fyftem pulled up the old by the roots. The 
fyftem builders, indeed, were always willing 
to accept of the aid of firft principles, when 
tthey were of their fide ; but finding them in- 



CHAP, fufficlent to fiipport the fabric which their ima-t 
1 . g ^nation had raifed, they were only brought in 
'as auxiUaries, and lo intermixed with conjec- 
tures, and with larne indudions, that their fyf- 
tems were hke Nebuchadnezzar's image, 
•whofe feet were partly of iron and partly of 

Lord Bacon firft delineated the only folid 
foundation on which natural philofophy can be 
built ; and S'v Isaac Newton reduced the 
pi-incipi,e$ laid down by Bacon into three or 
four axioms, which he calls regula philofophan- 
di. Fro in thefe, together with the phasnome- 
na obferved by the fenfes, which he likewife 
lays down as firil principles, he deduces, by 
Itrift reafoning, the propofitions contained in 
the third book of his Principia, and in his 
Optics ; and by this means has raifed a fabric 
in thofe two branches of natural philofophy, 
which is not liable to be Ihaken by doubtfui 
diiputation, but Hands immoveable upon the 
bafis of felf-evident principles. 

This fabric has been carried on by the ac- 
ceffion of new difcoveries y but is no more 
ibject to revolutions. 

i'he difputes about materia prima^ fubftantial 
forms, Nature's abhorring a vacuum, and bo- 
dies having no gravitation in their proper place, 
are now no more. The builders in this work 
are not put to the neceffity of holding a weapon 
in one hand while they build with the other : 
their whole employment is to carry on the 

Yet it feems to be very probable, that if na«» 
tural philofophy had not been reared upon this 
folid foundation of felf-evident principles, it 
would have been to this day a field of battle, 



wherein every inch of ground would have been ^ HA P. 
difputed, and nothing fixed and determined. ' . 

I acknowledge that mathematics and natural 
philolbphy, efpecially the former, have this ad- 
vantao;e of mod other fciences, that it is lefs 
difficult to form diftinft and determmate con- 
ceptions of the objefts about which they are 
employed ; but as this difficulty is not infu'pe- 
rable, it affords a good reafon, indeed, why 
other fciences fhould have a longer infancy ; 
but no reafon at all why they may not at lafl 
arrive at maturity, by the fame fleps as thofe 
of quicker growth. 

The fafts I have mentioned may therefore 
lead us to conclude, that if in other branches 
of philofophy the firfl principles were laid, 
down, as has been done in mathematics and 
natural philofophy, and the fubfequent con- 
clufions grounded upon them, this would make 
it much more eafy to diftinguifh what is folid 
and well fupported from the vain fidions of 
human fancy. 

But laying afide fads, the nature of the 
thing leads to the fame conclufion. 

For when any fyflem is grounded upon firfl 
principles, and deduced regularly from them, 
we have a thread to lead us through the laby- 
rinth. The judgment has a diftinft and deter- 
minate objed:. The heterogeneous parts being 
feparated, can be examined each by itfelf. 

The whole fyflem is reduced to axioms, de- 
finitions, and dedudions. Thefe are materials 
of very different nature, and to be meafured 
by a very different flandard ; and it is much 
more eafy to judge of each, taken by itfelf, 
than to judge of a mafs wherein they are knead- 
ed together without diflindion. Let us con- 
lider how we judge of each of them. 

248 ESSAY Vr. 

Firji^ As to definitions, the matter is very 
eafy. They relate only to words, and differ- 
ences about them may produce different ways 
of fpeaking, but can never produce different 
ways of thinking, while every man keeps to 
his own definitions. 

But as there is not a more plentiful fource of 
fallacies in reafoning than mens ufing the fame 
word fometimes in one fenfe and at other times 
in another, the beft means of preventing fuch 
fallacies, or of detecting them when they are 
committed, is definitions of words as accurate 
as can be given. 

Secondly, As to dedudiofts drawn from prin- 
ciples granted on both fides, I do not fee how 
they can long be a matter of difpute among 
men who are not blinded by prejudice or partia- 
lity : For the rules of reafoning by which in- 
ferences may be drawn from premifes have 
been for two thoufand years fixed with great 
unanimity. No man pretends to difpute the 
rules of reafoning laid down by Aristotle, 
and repeated by every writer in dialeftics. 

And we may obferve by the way, that the 
reafon why Logicians have been fo unanimous 
in determining the rules of reafoning, from 
Aristotle down to this day, feems to be, 
that they were by that great genius raifed, in 
a fciemific manner, from a few definitions and 
axioms. It may farther be obferved, that 
when men differ about a dedu£lion, whether 
it follows from certain premifes, this I think is 
aKvays owing to their differing about fome firft 
principle. 1 fhall explain this by an example. 

Suppofe that, from a thing having begun to 
exift, one man infers that it mufl have had a 
caufe J another man does not admit the infer- 


ence. Here It is evident, that the firfl takes CHAP, 
it for a lelf-evident principle, that every thing 
which begins to exift muft have a caufe. The 
other does not allow this to be felf-evident. 
Let them fettle this point, and the difpute will 
be at an end. 

Thus I think it appears, that in rnatters of 
fcience, if the terms be properly explained, the 
firft principles upon which the reafoning is 
grounded be laid down and expofed to exami- 
nation, and the conclufions regularly deduced 
from them, it might be expeded, that men of 
candour and capacity, who love truth, and 
have patience to examine things coolly, might 
come to unanimity with regard to the force of 
the deduftions, and that their differences might 
be reduced to thofe they may have about firft 

4. K fourth propofitlon is, that Nature hath 
not left us deflitute of means whereby the can- 
did and honefl part of mankind may be 
brought to unanimity when they happen to 
differ about firfl principles. 

When men differ about things that are taken 
to be firft principles or felf-evident truths, rea- 
foning feems to be at an end. Each party ap- 
peals to common fenfe. When one man^s 
common fenfe gives one determination, ano- 
ther man's a contrary determination, there 
feems to be no remedy but to leave every man 
to enjoy his own opinion. This is a common 
obfervation, and I believe a jufl one, if it be 
rightly underftood. 

It is in vain to reafon with a man who denies 
the firft principles on which the reafoning is 
grounded. Thus, it would be In vain to at- 
tempt the proof of a propofitlon in Euclid to 

a man 

25® ESSAY \^. 

^^'^P-a man who denies the axioms. Indeed, we 
■ ought never to reafon with men who deny firfl 
principles from obftinacy and unwillingnefs to 
yield to reafon. 

But is it not poiTible, that men who really 
love truth, and are open to conviction, may 
differ about firfl principles ? 

I think it is poffible, and that it cannot, 
without great v/ant of charity, be denied to 
be pofTible. 

When this happens, every man who believes 
that there is a real diflinction between truth 
and error, and that the faculties which God 
has given us are not in their nature fallacious, 
mufl be convinced that there is a defed:, or a 
perverfion of judgment on the one fide or the 

A man of candour and humility will, in 
fuch a cafe, very naturally fufpect his own 
judgment, fo far as to be defirous to enter into 
a ferious examination, even of what he has 
long held as a firfl principle. He will think 
it not impoffible, that although his heart be 
upright, his judgment may have been pervert- 
ed, by education, by authority, by party zeal, 
or by fome other of the common caufes of 
error, from the influence of which neither 
parts nor integrity exempt the human under^ 

In fuch a date of mind, fo amiable, and fo 
becoming every good man, has Nature left 
him deflitute of any rational means by which 
he may be enabled, either to corredl his judg- 
ment if it be wrong, or to confirm it if it be 
right ? 

I hope it is not fo. I hope that, by the 
means which Nature has furnifhed, controver- 



fies about firfl; principles may be brought to an C H A P. 
iflue, and that the real lovers of truth may -^• 
come to unanimity v,'ith regard to them. ' ^ 

It is true, that, in other controverfie$, the 
procefs by which the truth of a propofitlon is 
difcovered, or its falfehood detecled, is by 
Ihevving its necelTary connedion with firfl prin- 
ciples, or its repugnancy to them. It is true, 
iikewife, that when tlie controverfy is, whether 
a proportion be itfelf a firfl principle, this pro- 
cefs cannot be applied. The truth, therefore, 
in controverfies of this kind, labours under a 
peculiar difadvantage. But it has advantages 
of another kind to compenfate this. 

I. For, in the Jir/i place, in fuch contro- 
verfies, every man is a competent judge ; and 
therefore it is difficult to impofe upon man- 

To judge of firfl principles, requires no 
more than a found mind free from prejudice, 
and a diflinO: conception of the queflion. The 
learned and the unlearned, the Philofopher 
and the day-labourer, are upon a level, and 
will pafs the fame judgment, when they are 
not milled by fome bias, or taught to renounce 
their underflanding from fome miilaken reli- 
gious principle. 

In matters beyond the reach of common un- 
derflanding, the many are led by the few, 
and wiUingly yield to their authority. But, in 
matters of common fenfe, the few mufl yield 
to the many, when local and temporary pre- 
judices are removed. No man is now moved 
by the fubtile arguments of Zeno againfl mo- 
tion, though perhaps he knows not how to an- 
fwer them. 



ESSAY vr. 

CHAP. The ancient fceptlcal fyftem furnlflies a re- 
'^' markable inflance of this truth. That fyftem, 

^-"^^^^^ of which Pyrrho was reputed the father, was 
carried down, through a fucceffion of ages, 
by very able and acute Philofophers, who 
taught men to beUeve nothing at all, and 
elteemed it the higheft pitch of human wifdom 
to with-hold aflent from every propofition 
whatfoever. It was fupported with very great 
fubtilty and learning, as we fee from the wri- 
tings of Sextus Empiricus, the only author 
of that fe£l w^hofe writings have come down to 
our age. The affault of the Sceptics againft 
all fcience feems to have been managed with 
more art and addrefs than the defence of the 

Yet, as this fyftem was an infult upon the 
common fenfe of mankind, it died away of it- 
IJelf ; and it would be in vain to attempt to re- 
vive it. The modern fcepticifm is very differ- 
ent from the ancient, otherwife it would not 
have been allowed a hearing ; and, when it 
has loll the grace of novelty, it will die away 
alfo, though it fhould never be refuted. 

The modern fcepticifm, I mean that of Mr. 
KuME, is built upon principles which were 
very generally maintained by Philofophers, 
though they did not fee that they led to fcepti- 
cifm. Mr. Hume, by tracing, with great 
acutenefs and ingenuity, the confequences of 
principles commonly received, has Ihewn that 
they overturn all knowledge, and at laft over- 
turn themfelves, and leave the mind in perfect 

2. Secondly, We may obferve, that opinions 
which contradict firft principles are diftinguifh- 
ed from other errors by this ; that they are not 
cnly falfe, but abfurd : And, to difcountenance 



abfurdity. Nature hath given us a particularC H A PJ" 
emotion, to wit, that of ridicuie, which feems ^^• 
intended for this very purpofe of putting out '~" '^ 
of countenance what is abfurd, either in opi- 
nion or pra6lice. 

This weapon, when properly applied, cuts 
with as keen an edge as argument. Nature 
hath furnifhed us with the firfl to expofe ab- 
furdity ; as with the lafl to refute error. Both 
are well fitted for their feveral offices, and are 
equally friendly to truth when properly ufed. 

Both may be abufed to ferve the caufe of 
error : But the fame degree of judgment, 
which ferves to deteft the abufe of argument 
in falfe reafoning, ferves to dete6l the abufe of 
ridicule when it is wrong dire6ted. 

Some have from nature a happier talent for 
ridicule than others ; and the fame thing holds 
with regard to the talent of reafoning. Indeed, 
I conceive there is hardly any abfurdity, which, 
when touched with the pencil of a Lucian, at 
Swift, or a Voltaire, would not be put out 
of countenance, when there is not fome religi- 
ous panic, or very powerful prejudice, to 
blind the underftanding. 

But it mufl be acknowledged, that the emo- 
tion of ridicule, even when mod natural, may 
be ftifled by an emotion of a contrary nature, 
and cannot operate till that is removed. 

Thus, if the notion of fanftity is annexed to 
an objeft, it is no longer a laughable matter ; 
and this vifor mud be pulled oft' before it ap- 
pears ridiculous. Hence we fee, that notions 
which appear mofh ridiculous to all who con- 
fider them coolly and indifferently, have no 
fuch appearance to thofe who never thought of 
them, but under the impreffion of religious 
awe and dread. 


254 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP. Even where religion is not concerned, the 
^^ ^ novelty of an opinion to thofe who are too fond 
of novelties; the gravity and folemnity with 
which it is introduced; the opinion we have 
entertained of the author; its apparent con- 
nection with principles already embraced, or 
fubferviency to interefts which we have at 
heart; and, above allj its being fixed in our 
minds at that time of life when we receive im- 
plicitly what we are taught ; may cover its ab- 
furdity, and fafcinate the underflanding for a 

But if ever we are able to view it naked, 
and dripped of thofe adventitious circumftan* 
ces from which it borrowed its importance and 
authority, the natural emotion of ridicule will 
exert its force. An abfurdity can be enter- 
tained by men of fenfe no longer than it w'ears 
a maik. When any man is found who has the 
(kill or the boldnels to pull off the ma(k, it 
can no longer bear the light; it llinks into dark 
corners for a while, and then is no more heard 
of, but as an objed of ridicule. 

Thus I conceive, that firli: principles, which 
are really the diftates of common fenfe, and 
directly cppofed to abfurdities in opinion, will 
always, froui the conflitution of human na- 
ture, fupport themfelves, and gain rather than 
lofe ground smong mankind. 

3. Thirdly, It may be obferved, that al- 
though it is contrary to the nature of firft 
principles to admit of diredt or apodidical 
proof; yet there are certain v. ays cf reafoning 
even about them, by w^hich thofe thrtt are juft 
and folid may be confirmed, and thofe that are 
falfe may be detected. It may here be proper 



to mention fomc of the topics from which we ^ ^^ ^* 
may reafon in matters of this kind. ^ " ^ 

Firji, It is a good argument ad bominem, if 
it can be (hewn, that a firft principle which a 
man rejects, (lands upon the fame footing 
with others v/hich he admits : For, when this 
is the cafe, he mufl: be guilty of an incon- 
fiftency who holds the one and rejeds the 

Thus the faculties of confcioufnefs, of me- 
mory, of external fenfe, and of reafon, are 
all equally the gifts of Nature. No good rea- 
fon can be aihgned for receiving the teftimony 
of one of them, which is not of equal force 
with regard to the others. The greateft Scep- 
tics admit the teftimony of confcioufnefs, and 
allow, that what it teftifies is to be held as a 
firft principle. If therefore they rejeO: the 
immediate teftimony of fenfe, or of memory, 
they are guilty of an inconfiftency. 

Secondly^ A firft principle may admit of a 
proof ad ahfurdum. 

In this kind of proof, which is very common 
in mathematics, we fuppofe the contradictory 
proportion to be true. We trace the confe- 
quences of that fuppofition in a train of rea- 
foning; and if we find any of its neceifary 
confequences to be manifeftly abfurd, we con- 
clude the fuppofition from which it followed 
to be falfe j and therefore its contradi6tory to 
be true. 

There is hardly any propofition efpecially of 
thofe that may claim the character of firft prin- 
ciples, that ftands alone and unconnefted- 
It draws many others along with it in a chain 
that cannot be broken. He that takes it up 
muft bear the burden of all its confequences ; 


256 £ S S A Y VI. 

CHAP, and if that is too heavy for him to bear, he 
■ muft not pretend to take it up. 
^^^^^^"^ Thirdly^ 1 conceive, that the confent of ages 
and nations, of the learned and unlearned, 
ought to have great authority vi^ith regard to 
firft principles, where every man is a compe- 
tent judge. 

Our ordinary conduft in life is built upon 
firft principles, as well as our fpeculations in 
philofophy ; and every motive to adion fup- 
pofes fome belief. When we find a general 
agreement among men, in principles that con- 
cern human life, this mufl have great autho- 
rity with every fober mind that loves truth. 

Tt is pleafant to obferve the fruitlefs pains 
which Bifhop Berkeley takes to fhew, that 
his fyftem of the non-exiftence of a material 
world did not contradidl the fentiments of 
the vulgar, but thofe only of the Philofophers. 

With good reafon he dreaded more to op* 
pofe the authority of vulgar opinion in a mat- 
ter of this kind, than all the fchools of Philo- 

Here perhaps it will be faid. What has au- 
thority to do in matters of opinion? Is truth 
to be determined by moft votes ? Or is autho- 
rity to be again raifed out of its grave to ty- 
rannife over mankind ? 

I am aware that, in this age, an advocate 
for authority has a very unfavourable plea; 
but I willi to give no more to authority than is 
its due. 

Moft juftly do we honour the names of thofe 
benefadors to mankind who have contributed 
more or lefs to break the yoke of that autho- 
rity which deprives men of the natural, the 
unalienable right of judging for themfelves; 



but while we Indulge a jufl animofity againftC HAP. 
this authority, and againfl all who would fub- ^^• 
jed us to its tyranny, let us remember how ^"'"''''''^ 
comnlon the folly is, of going from one faulty 
extreme into the oppofite. 

Authority, though a very tyrannical miflrefs 
to private judgment, may yet, on fome occa- 
fions, be a ufeful handmaid ; this is all flie is 
entitled to, and this is all I plead in her behalf. 

The juftice of this plea will appear by put- 
ting a cafe in a fcience, in which, of all fci- 
€nces, authority is acknowledged to have lead 

Suppofe a Mathematician has made a difco-^ 
Very in that fcience which he thinks important 5 
that he has put his demonftration in juft order; 
and, after examining it with an attentive eye, 
has found no flaw in it; I would afk, Will 
there not be ft ill in his breaft fome diffidence, 
fome jcaloufy leaft the ardour of invention 
may have made him overlook fome falfc ftep? 
This muft be granted. 

He commits his demonftration to the exa- 
mination of a mathematical friend, whom he 
cfteems a competent judge, and waits v/ith im- 
patience the iflue of his judgment* Here I 
would alk again. Whether the verdid of his 
friend, according as it is favourable or un- 
favourable, will not greatly increafe or dimi- 
nifli his confidence in his own judgment t Moft 
certainly it will, and it ought. 

If the judgment of his friend agree with his 
own, efpecially if it be confirmed by two or 
three able judges, he refts fecure of his difco- 
very without farther examination; but if it be 
unfavourable, he is brought back into a kind 
of fufpenfe, until the part that is fufpeded un- 

Vol. II« S dergoes 

258 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP, dergoes a new and a more rigorous exami- 
^^- nation. 

'"'^^ 1 hope what is fuppofed in this cafe is agree- 
able to nature, and to the experience of candid 
and modeft men on fuch occafions ; yet here 
we fee a man's judgment, even in a mathema- 
tical demonftration, confcious of fome feeble- 
nefs in itfelf, feeking the aid of authority to 
fupport it, greatly flrengthened by that authori- 
ty, and hardly able to ftand eredt againft it, 
without fome new aid. 

Society in judgment, of thofe who are ef- 
teemed fair and competent judges, has effects 
very fimilar to thofe of civil fociety ; it gives 
flrength and courage to every individual; it 
removes that timidity which is as naturally the 
companion of folitary judgment, as of a foli- 
tary man in the ftate of nature. 

Let us judge for ourfelves therefore, but let 
us not difdain to take that aid from the autho-*' 
rity of other competent judges, which a Ma- 
thematician thinks it necelfary to take in that 
fcience, which of all fciences has lead to do 
with authority. 

In a matter of common fenfe, every man is 
no lefs a competent judge than a Mathemati- 
cian is in a mathematical demonftration; and 
there mud be a great prefumption that the 
judgment of mankind, in fuch a matter, is 
the natural ifl'ue of thofe faculties which God 
hath given them. Such a judgment can be 
erroneous only when there is fome caufe of the 
error, as general as the error is : When this 
can be ihewn to be the cafe, I acknowledge it 
ought to have its due weight. But to fuppofe 
a general deviation from truth among man- 
kind in things felf-evident, of which no caufe 
can be afligned, is highly unreafonable. 



Perhaps it may be thought impoffible to col-^ HAP. 
Ie6t the general opinion of men upon any point ^.,.^-^ 
whatfoever ; and therefore, that this authority 
can ferve us in no (lead in examining firft 
principles. But I apprehend, that in many ca- 
fes this is neither impoffible nor difficult. 

Who can doubt whether men have univer- 
fally believed the exiftence of a material world ? 
Who can doubt whether men have univerfally 
believed, that every change that happens in 
nature mufh have a caufe ? Who can doubt 
•whether men have univerfally believed, that 
there is a right and a wrong in human condudl ; 
fome things that merit blame, and others 
that are entitled to approbation ? 

The univerfality of thefe opinions, and of 
many fuch that might be named, is fufficiently 
evident, from the whole tenor of human con- 
du£l;, as far as our acquaintance reaches, and 
from the hiftory of all ages and nations of 
which we have any records. 

There are other opinions that appear to be 
iiniverfal, from what is common in the ftruc- 
ture of all languages. 

Language is the exprefs image and picture 
bf human thoughts ; and from the picture we 
may draw fome certain conclufions concerning 
the original; 

We find in all languages the fame parts of 
fpeech ; we find nouns, fubftantive and ad- 
jective ; verbs, adive and paffive, ill their va- 
rious tenfes, numbers, and moods. Some 
rules of fyntax are the fame in all languages. 

Now what is common in the ftructure of 
languages, indicates an uniformity of opinion 
in thofe things upon which that ftrudure is 

S 2 The 

25o ESSAY VI. 

The diflintlion between fubflances, and tfi^ 
qualities belonging to them ; between thought, 
and the being that thinks ; between thought^ 
and the objects of thought j is to be found in 
the ftrufture of all languages : And therefore^ 
fyflems of philofophy, which abolifh thofe dif- 
tinciions, wage war with the common fenfe of 

We are apt to imagine, that thofe who for- 
med languages were no Metaphyficians ; but 
the firft principles of ail fciences are the dic- 
tates of common fenfe, and he open to all 
men ; and every man who has confidered the 
llrudlure of language in a philofophical lights 
will find infallible proofs that thofe who have 
framed it, and thofe who ufe it with under- 
ftanding, have the power of making accurate 
diflinctions, and of forming general concepti- 
ons, as well as Philofophers. Nature has gi- 
yen Chofe powers to all men, and they can ufe 
them when their occafions require it ; but they 
leave it to thePhilofophers to give names to themy. 
and to defcant upon their nature. In like man- 
ner. Nature has given eyes to all men, and 
they can make good ufe of them ; but the 
flrudure of the eye, and the theory of vifion^ 
is the bufmefs of Philofophers. 

Fourthly, Opinions that appear fo early ir^ 
the minds of men, that they cannot be the ef- 
fect of education, or of falie reafoning, have a 
good claim to be confidered as firft principles* 
Thus the behef we have, that the perfons about 
us are living and intelligent beings, is a behef 
for which perhaps we can give fome reafon, 
when we are able to reafon ; but we had thi& 
belief before we could reafon, and before we 
could learn it by inftrudion. It feems there- 


fore to be an Immediate efFed: of our conftitu-C H A 1 
tion. ^ ^ IV. 

The /aj} topic I fhall mention Is, when an ^"-"^''''^ 
opinion is fo necelTary in the condud of life, 
that without the belief of it, a man mad be 
led Into a thoufand abfurditles in praQice, 
fuch an opinion, when we can give no other 
reafon for it, may lafely be taken for a firft 

Thus I have endeavoured to fliew, that al- 
though firil principles are not capable of direft 
proof, yet diiferences, that may happen with 
regard to them among men of candour, arc 
not without remedy ; that Nature has not left 
us deftltute of means by which we may difco- 
ver errors of this kind ; and that there arc 
ways of reafoning, with regard to firfl; princi- 
ples, by which thofe that are truly fuch may 
be diftinguilhed from vulgar errors or prejudi- 




The firjl Principles of contingent Truths. 

SURELY, fays Bifliop Berkeley, it 
is a work well deferving our pains, to 
" make a flrift enquiry concerning the firfl 
" principles of knowledge ; to fift and exa- 
" mine them on all fides." What was faid in 
the laft chapter, is intended both to fliew the 
importance of this enquiry, and to make it 
more eafy. 

But, in order that fuch an enquiry may be 
aftually made, it is neceffary that the firfl 
principles of knowledge be diftinguifhed from 
other truths, and presented to view, that they 
may be fifted and examined on all fides. In 
order to this end, I fhall attempt a detail of 
thofe I take to be fuch, and of the reafons why 
I think them entitled to that character. 

If the enumeration fliould appear to fome 
redundant, to others deficient, and to others 
both ; if things, which I conceive to be firfl 
principles, fliould to others appear to be vul- 
gar errors, or to be truths which derive their 
evidence from other truths, and therefore 
not firfl principles ; in thefe things every man 
mufl judge for himfelf. I fliall rejoice to 
fee an enumeration more perfe6l in any or in 
all of thofe refpeds ; being perfuaded, that 
the agreement of men of judgment and can- 
dour in firil principles, would be of no lefs 
confequence to the advancement of knowledge 
in general, than the agreement of Mathemati- 
' ■ cians 

Ttrji Principles of Contingent Truths. 263 

clans in the axioms of geometry has been toCH AP. 
the advancement of that fcience. V. 

The truths that fall within the compafs of "">'' ■* 

human knowledge, whether they be felf-evi- 
dent, or deduced from thofe that are felf-evi- 
dent, may be reduced to two clafies. They 
are either necelfary and immutable truths, 
whofe contrary is impollible, or they are con- 
tingent and mutable, depending upon fome 
effe£t of will and power, which had a begin- 
ning, and may have an end. 

That a cone is the third part of a cylinder of 
the fame bafe and the fame altitude, is a ne- 
ceffary truth. It depends not upon the will 
and power of any being. It is immutably true, 
and the contrary impoflible. That the fun is * 
the centre, about which the earth, and the 
other planets of our fyftem, perform their re- 
volutions, is a truth ; but it is not a neceifary 
truth. It depends upon the power and will of 
that Being who made the fun and all the pla- 
nets, and who gave them thofe motions that 
feemed beft to him. 

If all truths were neceflary tr-uths, there 
would be no occafion for different tenfes in 
the verbs by which they are expreffed. What 
is true in the prefent time, would be true in 
the paft and future ; and there would be no 
change or variation of any thing in nature. 

We ufe the prefent tenfe in expreffmg necef- 
fary truths ; but it is only becaufe there is no 
^exion of the verb which includes all times. 
When I fay that three is the half of fix, I ufe 
the prefent tenfe only ; but I mean to exprefs 
not only what now is, but what always was, 
and always will be ; and fo every propofition 
is to be underftood by which we mean to exr 


204 E S S A Y VI. 

CHAP, prefs a neceflary truth. Contingent truths are 
• of another nature. As they are mutable, they 
may be true at one time, and not at another ; 
and therefore the expreffion of them muil in- 
clude fomc point or period of time. 

If language had been a contrivance of Phi- 
lofophers, they ^vould probably have given 
fome flexion to the indicative mood of verbs, 
which extended to all times part, prefent, and 
future ; for fuch a flexion only would be fit to 
exprefs neceflary proportions, which have na 
relation to time. But there is no language, as 
far as I know, in which fuch a flexion of verbs 
is to be found. Becaufe the thoughts and dif- 
courfe of men are feldcm employed about ne-. 
cefl^ary truths, but commonly about fuch as are 
contingent ; languages are fitted to exprefs 
the laft rather than the firft. 

The difliinftion commonly made between 
abft:ra6l truths, and thofe that exprefs matters 
of faft, or real exifliences, coincides in a great 
meafure, but not altogether, with that between 
neceffary and contingent truths. Thenecef- 
fary truths that fall within our knowledge are 
for the mofl: part abfl:rafl: truths. We mufl^ ex- 
cept the exiftence and nature of the Supreme 
Being, which is neceflary. Other exigences 
are the eff"eds of will and power. They had 
a beginning, and are mutable. Their nature 
is fuch as the Supreme Being was pleafed to 
give them. Their attributes and relations 
mud depend upon the nature God has given 
them ; the powers with which he has endowed 
them ; and the fituation in which he hath pla- 
ced them. 

The conclufions deduced by reafoning from 
firfl: principles, will commonly be neceflary or. 


Tirfl Pnndples of Contingent Truths* 265 

contingent, according as the principles areCHAP. 
from which they are drawn. On the one ^_,_^I...^ 
hand, 1 take it to be certain, that whatever 
^an, by juft reafoning, be inferred from a 
principle that is necelTary, mnfl: be a nece0ary 
truth, and that no contingent truth can be in-, 
ferred from principles that are neceffary. 

Thus, as the axioms in mathematics are all ' 
neceflary truths : fo are all the conclufions 
drawn from them ; that is, the whole body of 
that fcience. But from no mathematical truth ^ 
can we deduce the exiflence of any thing 5 
not even of the objects of the fcience. 

On the other hand, I apprehend there are 
very few cafes in which we can, from princi* 
pies that are contingent, deduce truths that 
lire neceffary. I can only recoiled one inftance 
of this kind, namely, that, from the exiflence 
of things contingent and mutable, we can in* 
fer the exiftence of an immutable and eternal 
caufe of them. 

As the minds of men are occupied much 
more about truths that are contingent than 
about thofe that are neceffary, I fliall firft en- 
deavour to point out the principles of the for- 
mer kind. 

I. Fi7-yi, then, I hold, as a firff principle, 
the exiftence of every thing of which I am con- 

Confcioufnefs is an operation of the under* 
(landing of its own kind, and cannot be logi- 
cally defined. The objefts of it are our prefent 
pains, our pleafures, our hopes, our fears, 
our defires, our doubts, our thoughts of every ^ 
kind ; in a word, all the paffions, ^nd all the 
aftions and operations of our own minds, 
\vhile they are prefent. We may remember 



CHAP, them when they are paft ; but we are confci- 
"• ous of them only while they are prefent. 

When a man is confcious of pain, he Is cer- 
tain of its exiftence ; when he is confcious that 
he doubts, or believes, he is certain of the ex- 
iftence of thofe operations. 

But the irrefiftible convidlion he has of the 
reality of thofe operations is not the efFe£t of 
reafoning ; it is immediate and intuitive. 
The exiftence therefore of thofe paftions and 
operations of our minds, of which we are 
confcious, is a firft principle, which Nature 
requires us to believe upon her authority. 

If I am afked to prove that I cannot be de- 
ceived by confcioufnefs ; to prove that it is not 
a fallacious fenfe ; I can find no proof. I can- 
not find any antecedent truth from which it is 
deduced, or upon which its evidence depends. 
It feems to difdain any fuch derived authority, 
and to claim my affent in its own right. 

If any man could be found fo frantic as to 
deny that he thinks, while he is confcious of it; 
I may wonder, I may laugh, or I may pity 
^lim, but I cannot reafon the matter with him. 
We have no common principles from which 
we may reafon, and therefore can never join 
iftue in an argument. 

This, I think, is the only principle of com- 
mon fenfe that has never dire6lly been called 
in queftion. It feems to be fo firmly rooted in 
the minds of men, as to retain its authority 
with the greateft Sceptics. Mr. Hume, after 
annihilating body and mind, time and fpace, 
aftion and caufation, and even his own mind, 
acknowledges the reaUty of the thoughts, fen-r 
i^itions and paftions of which he is confcious. 


Tirfi Principles of CoJiiingent Truths, 267 

No Philofopher has attempted by any hypo- CHAP, 
thefis to account for this confcioufiiefs of our ^* 
own thoughts, and the certain knowledge of 
their real exiftence which accompanies it. By 
this they feem to acknowledge, that this at 
lead is an original power of the mind; a power 
by which we not only have ideas, but original 
judgments, and the knowledge of real exifv 

I cannot reconcile this immediate knowledge 
of the operations of our own minds with Mr. 
Locke's theory, that all knowledge confifls in 
perceiving the agreement and difagreement of 
ideas. What are ideas, from whofe compari- 
fon the knowledge of our own thoughts re- 
fults? Or what are the agreements or difagree- 
ments which convince a man that he is in pain 
when he feels it ? 

Neither can I reconcile it with Mr. Hume's 
theory, that to believe the exiftence of any 
thing, is nothing elfe than to have a ftrong and 
lively conception of it ; or, at moft, that belief 
is only fome modification of the idea which is 
theobje£t of belief. For not to mention, that 
propofitions, not ideas, are the objeft of be- 
lief; in all that variety of thoughts and paffions, 
of which we are confcious, we believe the ex- 
iftence of the weak as well as of the ftrong, 
the faint as well as the lively. No modificati- 
on of the operations of our minds difpofes us 
to the leaft doubt of their real exiftence. 

As therefore the real exiftence of our 
thoughts, and of all the operations and feelings 
of our own minds, is believed by all men; as 
we find ourfelves incapable of doubting it, and 
as incapable of offering any proof of it, it 
may juflly be confidercd as a firft principle, or 
dictate of common fenfe. 


a68 E S S A y VI. 

CHAP, But although this principle refts upon no 
^' other, a very confiderable and important 
^^""^^"^ branch of human knowledge refls upon it. 

For from this fource of confcioufnefs is de- 
rived all that we know, and indeed all that we 
can know, of the ftrudur'e, and of the powers 
of our own minds; from which we may con- 
clude, that there is no branch of knowledge 
that {lands upon a firmer foundation ; for fure- 
ly no kind of evidence can go beyond that of 

How does it come to pafs then, that in this 
branch of knowledge there are fo many and fo 
contrary fyftems ? fo many fubtile controvcrfies 
that are never brought to an ilTue, and fo little 
fixed and determined? Is it poffible that Phi- 
lofophers fhould differ mofl where they have 
the fureft means of agreement? where every 
thing is built upon a fpecies of evidence which 
fill men acquiefce in, and hold to be the moft 

This ftrangc phasnomenon may, I think, 
be accounted for, if we diftinguifh between 
confcioufnefs and refledion, which are often 
improperly confounded. 

The firft is common to all men at all times, 
but is infufficient of itfelf to give us clear and 
diftind notions of the operations of which we 
are confcious, and of their mutual relations, 
and minute diflindions. The fecond, to wit, 
attentive refledion upon thofe operations, 
making them objeds of thought, furveying 
them attentively, and examining them on all 
fides, is fo far from being common to all men, 
that it is the lot of very few. The greateft 
part of men, either through want of capacity, 
or from other caufcs, never refled attentively 


Firjl Principles of Contingent Truthu i6g 

upon the operations of their own minds. The CHAP, 
habit of this reflection, even in thofe whom ^' 
Nature has fitted for it, is not to be attained 
without much pains and pradice. 

Wc can know nothing of the immediate ob- 
jedls of fight, but by the teftimony of our 
eyes; and I apprehend, that if mankind had 
found as great difficulty in giving attention to 
the objeds of fight, as they find in attentive 
reflection upon the operations of their own 
minds, our knowledge of the firft might have 
been in as backward a flate as our knowledge 
of the lafl. 

But this darknefs will not laft for ever- 
Light will arife upon this benighted part of the 
intelledual globe. When any man is fo happy 
as to deUneate the powers of the human mind 
as they really are in nature, men that are free 
from prejudice, and capable of refledion, will 
recognife their own features in the pidure ; and 
then the wonder will be, how things fo obvious 
could be fo long wrapped up in myilery and 
darknefs; how men could be carried away by 
falfe theories and conjedures, when the truth 
was to be found in their own breafls if they 
had but attended to it. 

2. Another firft principle, I think, is. That 
the thoughts of which I am confcious, are the 
thoughts of a being which I call my f elf my 
mind^ my per/on. 

The thoughts and feelings of which we arc 
confcious are continually changing, and the 
thought of this moment is not the thought of 
the laft; but fomething which I call myfelf, 
remains under this change of thought. This 
felf has the fame relation to all the fucceffive 
thoughts I am confcious of, tjiey are all my 


2^e( E S S A Y VL 

C hA P. thoughts ; and every thought which is not my 
thought, mud be the thought of fome other 

If any man afks a proof of this, I confefs I 
can give none ; there is an evidence in the 
propofition itfelf which I am unable to refift. 
Shall I think, that thought can ftand by itfelf 
without a thinking being? or that ideas can 
feel pleafureor pain? My nature dictates to me 
that it is impofiible; 

And that Nature has dictated the fame to all 
men, appears from the ftru£ture of all lan- 
guages: For in all languages men have ex- 
prefled thinkhig, reafoning, willing, loving, 
hating, by perfonal verbs, which from their 
nature require a perfon who thinks, reafons, 
wills, loves, or hates. From which it ap- 
pears, that men have been taught by Nature 
to believe that thought requires a thinker, rea- 
fon a reafoner, and love a lover. 

Here we muft leave Mr. Hume, who con- 
ceives it to be a vulgar error, that befides the 
thoughts we are confcious of, there is a mind 
which is the fubject of thofe thoughts. If the 
mind be any thing elfe than impreffions and 
ideas, it muft be a word without a meaning. 
The mind therefore, according to this Philofo- 
pher, is a word \vhich fignifies a bundle of per- 
ceptions, or, w^hen he defines it more accu- 
rately, " It is that fucccffion of related ideas 
*' and imprelhons, of which we have an inti- 
" mate memory and confcioufnefs.'* 

I am. therefore, that fucccffion of related 
ideas and impreiTions of which I have the inti- 
mate memory and confcioufnefs^ 

But who is the / that has this memory and 
eonfcioufnefs of a fucceffion of ideas and im- 
preffions ? 

lirjl Principles of Contingent Truths. 'i'-j\ 

preflions? Why, it is nothing but that fuccef-C H A P. 
fionitfelf. ^ ^ u.JL^ 

Hence f learn, that this fucceffion of ideas "^ 
and impreffions intimately remembers, and is 
confcious of itfelf. I would wifli to be farther 
inftrudled, whether the impreffions remember 
and are confcious of the ideas, or the ideas re- 
member and are confcious of the impreffions, 
or if both remember and are confcious of both? 
and whether the ideas remember thofe that 
come after them, as well as thofe that were 
before them ? Thefe are queflions naturally 
arifmg from this fyllem, that have not yet 
been explained. 

This, however, is clear, that this fucceffiort 
of ideas and impreffions, not only remembers 
and is confcious, but that it judges, reafonsj 
affirms, denies ; nay, that it eats and drinks, 
and is fometimes merry, and fometimes fad. 

If thefe things can be afcribed to a fucceffiort. 
of ideas and impreffions, in a confiftency with 
common fenfe, 1 ffiould be very glad to know 
what is nonfenfe. 

The fcholaftic Philofophers have been wit- 
tily ridiculed, by reprefenting them as difpu- 
ting upon this queflion, 'Nam cbim^era bo?nbi' 
nans in 'uacuo pojjit comedere fecundas intcntiones f 
and I believe the wit of man cannot invent a 
more ridiculous queftion. But, if Mr. Hume*s 
philofophy be admitted, this queftion deferves 
to be treated more gravely : For if, as we learri 
from this philofophy, a fucceffion of ideas and 
impreffions may eat, and drink, and be merry, 
I fee no good reafon why a chimera, which if 
not the fame, is of kin to an idea, may not 
chew the cud upon that kind of food, which 
the fchoolmen call fecond intentions. 

3. Another 

CHAP. -^. Another firfl: principle I take to be, That 
t^r^J-^^, thofe things did really happen which I diftindt* 
ly remember. 

This has one of the fureft mark§ of a firfl 
principle ; for no man ever pretended to prove 
it, and yet no man in his wits calls it hi quef* 
tion ; the tcftimony of memory, like that of 
confcic. ufnefs, is immediate; it claims our af- 
fent upon its own authority. 

Suppofe t-!.at a learned counfel, in defence 
of a client aaainf!: the concurring teftimony of 
"Witnefles of credit, fbould infill upon a new 
topic to invalidate the teftimony. " Admit- 
" ting,'* fays he, " the integrity of the wit* 
*' neiles, and that they diftinftly remember 
*' what they have given in evidence ; it does 
*' not follow that the prifoner is guilty. It 
" has never been proved that the moft diftin(S 
*' memory may not be fallacious. Shew me 
*' any necelfary connedion between that aft 
" of the mind which we call memory, and the 
" paft exiftence of the event remembered- 
*' No man has ever offered a fhadow of argu* 
*' ment to prove fuch a connection ; yet this 
" is one link of the chain of proof againft the 
" prifoner ; and if it have no ftrength, the 
•* whole proof falls to the ground : Until thi^, 
" therefore, be made evident, until it can be 
" proved, that we may fafdy reft upon the 
" teftimony of memory for the truth of paft 
" events, no judge or jury can juftly mke 
" away the life of a citizen upon fo doubtful 
" a point.'* 

I believe we may take it for granted, that 
this argument from a learned counfel would 
have no other eiTed upon the judge or jury, 
than to convince them that he was difordered 


Firji Prindpfes of Contingent Truths, 273 

in his judgment. Counfel is allowed to plead C H A P. 
every thing for a client that is fit to perfuade 
or to move ; yet I believe no counfel ever had 
the boldnefs to plead this topic. And for v/hat 
reafon ? For no other reafon, furely, but be- 
caufe it is abfurd. Now, what is abfurd at 
the bar, is foin the Philofopher's chair. V/hat 
would be ridiculous, if delivered to a jury of 
honefl fenfibie citizens, is no lefs fo when de- 
livered gravely in a philorophical dilfertation* 

Mr. HuPviE has not, as far as I remember, 
directly called inqueflion the tedimony of me- 
mory ; but he has laid dov»'n the premifes 
by which its authority is overturned, leaving 
it to his reader to draw the conclufion. 

He labours to ftew, that the belief or aflent 
which always attends the memory and fenfes 
is nothing but the vivacity of thofe perceptions 
which they prefent. He ftiews very clearly, 
that this vivacity gives no ground to believe 
the exiftence of external objects. And it is 
obvious, that it can give as httle ground to ^ 
believe the pad exiftence of the objeds of me- 

Indeed the theory concerning ideas, fo gene- 
rally receivc'd by Philofophers, deflroys all the 
authority of memory, as well as the authority of 
the fenfes. Des Cartes, Maleeranche, and 
Locke, were aware that this theory made it 
neceifary for them to find out arguments to 
prove the exiftence of external objeds, which 
the vulgar believe upon the bare authority of 
their fenfes ; but thofe Philofophers were not 
aware, that this theory made it equally nccef- 
fary for them to find arguments to prove the 


Vol. ir. T 



C HA P. exiflence of things paft, which we remember, 

^* and to fupport the authority of memory. 
^"^^^^^'^^ All the arguments they advanced to fupport 
the authority of our fenfes, were eafily refuted 
by Bifhop Berkeley and Mr. Hume, being 
indeed very weak and inconclufive. And it 
would have been as eafy to anfwer every ar- 
gum.ent they could have brought, confident 
with their theory, to fupport the authority of 

For, according to that theory, the immedi- 
ate objed: of memory, as well as of every other 
operation of the underftanding, is an idea pre- 
fent in the mind. And, from the prefent ex- 
iftence of this idea of memory I am left to in- 
fer, by reafoning, that fix months, or fix 
years ago, there did exift an objecl fimilar to 
this idea. 

But what is there in the idea that can lead 
me to this conclufion ? What mark does it 
bear of the date of its archetype ? Or what 
evidence have I that it had an archetype, and 
that it is not the firfl of its kind ? 

Perhaps it will be faid, that this idea or 
image in the mind mud have had a caufe. 

1 admit, that if there is fuch an image in the 
mind it muft have had a caufe, and a caufe 
able to produce the effect ; but what can we 
infer from its having a caufe ? Does it follow 
that the efFeft is a type, an image, a copy of 
its caufe ? Then it will foUovv^, that a pidure 
is an image of the painter, ^nd a coach of the 

A pad event may be knov/n by reafoning, 
but that is not remembering it. When I re- 
member a thing didindlly, I difdain equally to 
hear reafons for it or againd it. And fo I 
think does every man in his fenfes. 

4. Ano- 

Firji Principles of Contingent Truths. 275 

4. Another firil principle is our own per-C H A P. 
Ibnal identity and continued exiftence, as far • 
back as we remember any thing diliindly. 

This we know immediately, and not by 
realbning. It feems, indeed, to be a part of 
the teflimony of memory. Every thing we 
remember has fuch a relation to ourfelves, as 
to imply neceflarily our exiftence at the time 
remembered. And there cannot" be a more 
palpable abfurdity than that a man (hould re- 
member what happened before he exilled. 
He mull therefore have exiited as far back as 
he remembers any thing diftin6.1y, if his 
memory be not fallacious. This principle, 
therefore, is fo connefted with the lafl men- 
tioned, that it may be doubtful whether both 
ought not to be included inone. Let every 
one judge of this as he fees reafon. The pro- 
per notion of identity, and'the fentiments of 
Mr. Locke on this fubjed, have been confi-- 
dered before under the head of memory. 

5. Another hrft principle is, That thofe things 
do really exift which we diftinftly perceive by 
our fenfes, and are what we perceive them to 

It is too evident to need, proof, that all men 
are by nature led to give implicit faith to the 
diftin<9: teftimony of their fenfes, long before 
they are capable of any bias ftom prejudices of 
education or of philofbphy. 

How came we at firfl to know that there are 
certain beings about us whom we call father, 
and mother, and fifters, and brothers, and 
nurfe ? Was it not by the teftimony of our 
fenfes ? How did thefe perfons, convey to 
us any information or inflruftion ? Was it not 
by means of our fenfes ? 

T 2 It 

1-]^ ESSAY VI. 

It is evident we can have no communication, 
no correfpordence or fociety with any created 
being, but by means of our fenfes. And un- 
til we rely upon their teftimony, we muft con- 
fider ourfelves as being alone in the univerfe, 
without any fellow-creature, living or inani- 
mate, and be left to converfe with our 
own thoughts. 

Bifhop Berkeley furely did not duly con- 
fider, that it is by means of the material world 
that we have any correfpondence with thinking 
beings, or any knowledge of their exiftcnce, 
and that by depriving us of the material world, 
he deprived us at the fame time of family, 
friends, country, and every human creature ; 
of every objecl of affection, efteem or concern, 
except ourfelves. 

The good Bifliop furely never intended this. 
He was too warm a friend, too zealous a pa- 
triot, and too good a Chriftian, to be capable 
of fuch a thought. He was not aware of the 
confequences of his fyftem, and therefore they 
ought not to be imputed to him ; but we muft 
im.pute them to the fyftem itfelf. It ftifies 
evei*}' generous and fecial principle. 

When I confider myfelf as fpeaking to men 
who hear me, and can judge of what I fay, I 
feel that refpe^ which is due to fuch an au- 
dience. I feel an enjoyment in a reciprocal 
communication of fentiments with candid and 
ingenious friends, and my foul bleffes the Au- 
thor of my being, who has made me capable 
of this manly and rational entertainment. 

But the Bifhop fhev/s me, that this is all a 
dream ; that I fee not a human face ; that all 
the objeds I fee, and hear, and handle, are 
only th« ideas of my own mind ; ideas are my 


Firji Principles of Contingent Truths. 277 

only companions. Cold company, indeed ! C H A. P. 
Every Ibcial affedlion freezes at the thought ! "^ • 

But, my Lord Bifhop, are there no minds ^~^~^ 
left in the univerfe but my own ? 

Yes, indeed ; it is only the material world 
that is annihilated j every thing eife remains as 
it was, 

This feems to promife fome comfort in m.y 
forlorn folitude. But do I fee thofe minds ? 
No. Do I fee their ideas ? No. Nor do they 
fee me or my ideas. They are then no more 
to me than the inhabitants of Solomon's ifles, 
or of the moon ; and my melancholy folitude 
returns. Every focial tie is broken j and every 
focial affedion is ftifled. 

This difmal fyftem, which, if it could be 
believed, would deprive men of every focial 
comfort, a very good Bifhop, by ftritl and ac- 
curate reafoning, deduced from the principles 
commonly received by Philofophers concerning 
ideas. The fault is not in the reafoning;, but 
m the prmciples from which it is drawn. 

All the arguments urged by Berkeley and 
Hume againlf the ^xiftence of a material world 
are grounded upon this principle. That we do 
not perceive external objects themfelves, but 
certain images or ideas in our own minds. 
But this is no dictate of common lenfe, but 
directly contrary to the fenfe of all who have 
not been taught it by philofophy. 

We have before examined the reafons given 
by Philofophers, to prove that ideas, and not 
external objects, are the immediate objects of 
perception, and the inflances given to prove 
the fenfes fallacious. Without repeating what 
has before been faid upon thofe points, we 
fliall only here obferve, that if externid objects 


278 E S S A Y VI. 

CHAP, be perceived immediately, w« have the lame 
reafon to believe their exidence as Phuofo- 
phers have to believe the exjlience ot ideas, 
while they h'4d ttiem to be the immediate 
obje£ls of perception. 

6. Another firft principle, I think, is^ That 
we have fome degree of power over our ani- 
ons, and the determinations of our will. 

All power mull be derived from the fountain 
of power, and of every good gift. Upon his 
good pkafure its continuiince depends, and it 
is always fubjecl to his control. 

Beings to whom God has given any degre-e 
of power, and underftanding to direct them to 
the proper ufc of it, mull be accountable to 
their Maker. But thofe who are intrufted 
•y^ ith no power, can have no account to make ; 
for all good conduCl confifts in the right ufe 
of power ; all bad conduct in the abufe of 

To call to account a being who never was 
intrufted with any degree of power, is an ab- 
furdity no lefs than it would be to call to ac- 
count an inanimate being. We are fure, 
therefore, if we have any account to make to 
the Author of our being, that we muft have 
fome degree of power, which, as far as it is 
properly ufcd, entitles us to his approbation ; 
and, when abufed, renders us obnoxious to 
his difpieafure. 

It is not eafy to fay in what way we firft get 
the notion or idea of power. It is neither an 
object of fenfe nor of confcioufnefs. We fee 
event?, one fucccedliig another ; but we fee 
not the powder by which they are produced. 
W^e are confcious of the operations of our 
minds ; but power is not an operation of mind. 


Firjl Principles of Contingent Truths, 279 

If we had no notions but fuch as are furniflied^ ^^ ^• 
by the external fenfes, and by confcioufnefs, ' ^ ^ 
it feems to be impollible that we fiiouid ever 
have anv conception of power. Accordingly, 
Mr. Hume, who has reafoned the mod accu- 
rately upon this hypothefis, denies that we have 
any idea of power, and clearly refutes the ac- 
count given by Mr. Locke of the origin of 
this idea. 

But it is in vain to reafon from a hypothefis 
againft a faQ:, the truth of which every man 
may fee by attending to his own thoughts. It 
is evident, that all men, very early in Hfe, not 
only have an idea of power, but a convittion 
that they have Ibme degree, of it in themfelves : 
For this conviftion is necefl'arily implied in 
many operations of mind, which are familiar 
to every man, and without which no man can 
ad: the part of a reafonable being. 

Firji^ It is implied in every a61: of vohtion. 
" Volition, it is plain, fays Mr. Locke, is an 
" act of the mind, knowingly exerting that 
*' dominion which it takes itfelf to have over 
" any part of the man, by employing it in, or 
" with-holding it from any particular action." 
Every volition, therefore implies a conviction 
ot power to do the action willed. A man may 
defire to make a vifit to the moon, or to the 
planet Jupiter ; but nothing but infanity could 
make him v/iil to do fo. And if even iniaility 
produced this effect, it miift be by making 
him think it to be in his power. 

Secondly^ This conviction is implied in all 
deliberation ; for no man in his wits deliberates 
whether he fhail do what he believes not to be 
in his power. TIArdly^ The fame conviction 
is implied in every refclution or purpofe formed' 



C h A P. in confequence of deliberation. A man may 
^- as well form a refoiution to pull the moon out 
'^ "^""'of her iphere, ns to do the mod infignifi- 
cant a£lion which he believes not to be in his 
poV'*er. The fame thing may be laid of every 
promife or contra'3: wherein a man plights his 
faith ; for he is not an honeft: man who pro- 
mifes what he does not believe he has power to 

As thefe operations imply a belief of fome 
degree of power in ourfelves ; fo there are 
others equally common and familiar, v/hich 
imply a like behef with regard to others. 

V/hen we impute to a man any action or 
omiiTion, as a ground of approbation or of 
blame, we mud believe he had power to do 
otherwlfe. The fame is implied in all advice, 
exhortation, command, and rebuke, and in 
every cafe, in which we rely upon his fidelity 
in performing any engagement, or executing 
any trufl. 

It is not more evident that mankind have a 
conviQion of the exiftence of a material world, 
than that they have the conviction of fome de- 
gree of povver in themfelves, and in others ; 
every one over his own actions, and the deter- 
minations of his will : A conviction fo early, 
fo general, and fo interwoven with the whole 
of human conduct, that it mud be the natural 
efFe£t of our conditution, and intended by 
the Author of our being to guide our actions. 

It refembles our conviction of the exidence 
of a material world in this refpect alfo, that 
even thofe who rejeft it in fpeculation, find 
themfelves under a necefTity of being governed 
by it in their practice ; and thus it will always 
happen when philofophy contradicts firft prin- 

7. Ano- 

Firjt Principles of Contingent Truths. 281 

7. Another firfl principle is, That the na- C H A P. 
tural faculties, by which we diftinguifh truth 
from error, are not fallacious. If any man 
fliould demand a proof of this, it is impollible 
to fatisfy him. For fuppofe it fhould be ma- 
thematically demonftrated, this would fignify 
nothing in this cafe ; becaufe, to judge of a 
demonftration, a man muft truft his faculties, 
and take for granted the very thing in queftion. 

If a man's honefty were called in queftion, 
it would be ridiculous to refer it to the man's 
own word, whether he be honeft or not. The 
fame abfurdity there is in attempting to prove, 
by any kind of reafoning, probable or demon- 
ftrative, that our reafon is not fallacious, fmce 
the very point in queftion is, whether rea- 
foning may be trufted. 

If a Sceptic ftiould build his fcepticifm upon 
this foundation, that all our reafoning and 
judging powers are fallacious in ther nature, 
or ihould refolve at leaft to with-hold aflent 
until it be proved that they are not ; it would 
be impofiible by argument to beat him out of 
this ftrong hold, and he muft even be left to 
enjoy his fcepticifm. 

Des Cartes certainly made a falfe ftep in 
this matter ; for having fuggefted this doubt 
among others, that whatever evidence he 
might have from his confcioufnefs, his fenfes, 
his memory, or his reafon ; yet pofiibly fome 
malignant being had given him thpfe faculties 
on purpofe to impofe upon him ; and therefore, 
that they are not to be trufted without a proper 
voucher : To remove this doubt, he endea- 
vours to prove the being of a Deity who is no 
deceiver j whence he concludes, that the fa- 

2 8- ESSAY VI. 

C HA P.culties he had given him are true and worthy 
,^^__J^__^^^ to be truilec. 

It is ilr.ange that fo acute a reafoner did not 
perceive, that in this realoning thers is evi- 
dently a begging of the queflion. 

For if our facuUies be fiillacious, why may 
they not deceive us in this reafoning as well 
as in o*:hers ? And if they are to be trulied ill 
this inilance without a voucher, why not in 
others ? 

Every kind of reafoning for the veracity of 
Gur faculties, amounts to no more than taking 
their owa teftimony for their veracity ; and 
this we muil do implicitly, until God give us 
new faculties to ht in judgment upon the old ; 
and the reafon why»DES Cartes fatisfied him- 
felf with fo weak an argument tor the truth of 
his faculties, molt probably was, that he never 
ferloufly doubted of it. 

If any truth can be faid to be prior to all 
others in the order of nature, this feems to 
have the bed claim ; becaufe in every inftance 
of aifent, whether upon intuitive, demonftra- 
tive, or probable evidence, the truth of our 
faculties is taken for granted, and is, as it 
were, one of the premifes on which our affent 
is grounded. 

How then come we to be affured of this 
fundamental truth on which all others reft ? 
Perhaps evidence, as in ma?iy other refpefts 
it refembles light, fo in this alfo, that as light, 
which is the difcoverer of all vihble objects, 
diibovers itfelf at the fame time ; fo evidence, 
which is the voucher for all truth, vouches for 
itfelf at the fame time. 

This, however, is certain, that fuch is the 
conftitution of the human mind, that evidence 


Firji Principles of Centin^ent Truths. 283 

difcerned by us, forces a correfponding degree CHAP, 
of aifent. And a man who perfeftly under- ^• 
flood a jufl fyllogifm, without believing that 
the conclufion follows from the premifes, would 
be a greater monfter than a man born without 
hands or feet. 

We are born under a neceffity of trufting 
to our reafoning and judging powers ; and a 
real belief of their being fallacious cannot be 
maintained for any confiderable time by the 
greateft Sceptic, becaufe it is doing violence to 
cur conftitution. It is Hke a man's walking 
upon his hands, a feat which fome men upon 
occafion can exhibit ; but no man ever made a 
long journey in this manner. Ceafe ro admire 
his dexterity, and he will, like, other men, 
betake himfelf to his legs. 

We may here take notice of a property of 
the principle under confideration, that feems 
to be common to it with many other firft: prin- 
ciples, and which can hardly be found in any 
principle that is built folely upon reafoning ; 
and that is, that in mod m.en it produces its 
effecl without ever being attended to, or made 
an objedt of thought. No man ever thinks of 
this principle, unlefs when he confiders the 
grounds of fcepticifm ; yet it invariably go- 
verns his opinions. When a man in the com- 
mon courfe of life gives credit to the teftimony 
of his fenfes, his memory, or his reafon, 
he does not put the queftion to himfelf, whe- 
ther thefe faculties may deceive him ; yet the 
trufi he repofes in them fuppofes an inward 
convidion, that, in that inff ance at leaft, they 
do not deceive him. 

It is another property of this and of many 
jEirft principles, that they force aifent in par- 

284 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP.ticuIar inftances, more powerfully than when 
they are turned into a general propofition. 
Many Sceptics have denied every general prin- 
ciple of fcience, excepting peihaps the exif- 
tence of our preient thoughts ; yet thefe men 
reafon, and refute, and prove, they aiTent and 
diiient in particular c'lies. 1 hey ufe reafoning 
to overturn ail reafoning, and judge that they 
ought to have no judgment, and fee clearly 
that they are blind. Pviany have in general 
maintained that the fenfcs are fallacious, yet 
there never was found a man fo fceptical as 
not to trufc his fenies in particular inftances 
when his fafety required it; and it may be ob- 
ferved of thofe who have profeifed fcepticifm, 
that their fcepticifm lies in generals, while 
in particulars they are no lefs dogmatical than 

8. Another firft principle relating to exif- 
tence, is, That there is life and intelligence in 
our fellow-men with whom w^e converfe. 

As foon as children are capable of alking a 
queilion, or of anfwering a queftion, as foon 
as they fhew the figns of love, of refentment, 
or of any other aiTetlion, they muft be con- 
vinced, that thofe with whom they have this 
intercourfe are intelligent beings. 

It is evident they are capable of fuch inter- 
courfe long before they can reafon. Every one 
knows, that there is a focial intercourfe be- 
tween the nurfe and the child before it is a year 
old. It can, at that age, underftand many 
things that are faid to it. 

It can by figns afk and refufe, threaten and 
fupplicate. It clings to its nurfe in danger, 
enters into her grief and joy, is happy in her 
foothing and carelfes, and unhappy in her dif- 

pleafure : 

F'lrjl Principles of Contingent Truths, 285 

pleafure: That thefe things cannoi. be withoutCH A P. 
a conviction in the child that the inurfe is an ^'■ 
intelligent being, I think muft be granted. '~' '' 

Now I would afk how a cbild of a year old 
comes by this conviction? Not by reafoning 
furelv, for children do not reafon at that ao-e. 
Nor is it by external fcnfts, for life and in- 
telligence are not objects of the external fen- 

By what means, or upon what occafions 
Nature firft: gives this infornuition to the infant 
mind, is not eafy to determine. We are not 
capable of reflecling upon our own thoughts 
at that period of life, and before we attain 
this capacity, we have quite forgot how or on 
what occafion we firfl had this belief; we per- 
ceive it in thofe who are born blind, and in 
others who are born deaf; and therefore Na- 
ture has not conneded it folely either with any 
object of fight, or with any object of hearing. 
When we grow up to the years of reafon and 
reflection, this belief remains. No man thinks 
of afking himfelf what reafon he has to be- 
lieve that his neighbour is a living creature. 
He would be not a little furprifed if another 
perfon (hould afk him fo abfurd a queltion ; 
and perhaps could not give any reafon which 
would not equally prove a watch or a puppet 
to be a living creature. 

But, though you fhould fatisfy him of the 
weaknefs of the reafons he gives for his belief, 
you cannot make him in the leaft doubtful. 
This belief (lands upon another foundation 
than that of reafoning; and therefore, whether 
a man can give good reafons for it or not, it is 
not in his power to faake it off. 



C H A P. Setting afide this natural convidion, I be- 
^ lieve the bcft reafon we can give, to prove that 
^^''^*^**^ other men are hving and inteUigent, is, that 
their words and aftions indicate hke powers 
of underflanding as we are confcious of in 
ourfelves. The very fame argument appUed 
to the works of nature, leads us to conclude, 
that there is an intelligent Author of nature, 
and appears equally flrong and obvious in the 
lad cafe as in the firft ; fo that it may be doubt- 
ed whether men, by the mere exercife of rea- 
foning, might not as foon difcover the exif- 
tence of a Deity, as that other men have life 
and intelligence. 

The knowledge of the laft is abfolutely ne- 
ceffary to our receiving any improvement by 
means of inflrudion and example; and, with- 
out thefe means of improvements, there is no 
ground to think that we fhould ever be able 
to acquire the ufe of our reafoning powers. 
This knowledge, therefore, muft be antece- 
dent to reafoning, and therefore muft be a 
firft principle. 

It cannot be faid, that the judgments we 
form concerning life and intelligence in other 
beings are at firft free from error; But the: 
errors of children in this matter lie on the fafe 
fide ; they are prone to attribute intelHgence 
to things inanimate. Thefe errors are of fmall 
confequence, and are gradually corrected by 
experience and ripe judgment. But the be- 
lief of life and intelligence in other men, is 
abfolutely neceffary for us before we are capa* 
ble of reafoning ; and therefore the Author of 
our being hath given us this belief antecedently 
to all reafoning. 

9. Another 

Firft Principles of Cojitingent Truths. 287 

9. Another firft principle I take to be, That^ ^^ .^ ^- 
.certain features of the countenance, ioimds of 
the voice, and geftures of the body, indicate 
certain thoughts and difpofidons of mind» 

That many operations of the mind have 
their natural figns in the countenance, voice, 
and gefture, I fuppofe every m/ui will admit. 
Qvinis eniai motus animi, fays Cicero, fuum 
quemdam ha bet a natura vultum^ et vocem eft 
gejlum. The only queftion is, whether we un- 
derfland the fignification of thofefigns, by the 
conftitution of our nature, by a kind of natu- 
ral perception fmiilar to the perceptions of' 
fenfe; or whether we gradually learn the fig- 
nification of fuch iigns from experience, as 
we learn that fmoke is a fign of fire, or that the 
freezing of water is a fign of cold? I take the 
firft to be the truth. 

It feems to me incredible, that the notions 
men have of the expreffion of features, voice, 
and gefture, are entirely the fruit of experi- 
ence. Children, almoft as foon as born, may 
be frighted and thrown into fits by a threaten- 
ing or angry tone of voice. I knew a man 
who could make an infant cry, byivhiftlinga 
melancholy tune in the fame ^r in the next 
room: and again, by altering his key, and the 
ftrain of his mufic, could make the child leap 
and dance for joy. 

It is not by experience furely that we learn 
the exprcfiion of mufic ; for its operation is 
commonly ftro ngeft the firft time we hear it. - 
One air expreffes mirth and feftivity; fo that, 
when we hear it, it is with difficulty we can 
forbear to dance. Another is forrowful and 
folemn. One infpires with tendernefs and 
love ; another ^with-.rage and fury. 


288 ESSAY VI. 

C H A P. Hear how Timotheus yary'd lays furprife, 
And bid alternate paflions fall and rife ; 
^^'^'^^^'■'^ While at each change, the fon of Lybian Jove 
Now burns with glory, and then melts with 

Now his fierce eyes with fparlding fury glow, 
Now fighs Ileal out, and tears begin to flow. 
Perfians and Greeks, like turns of Nature, 

And the world*s viftor flood fubdued by found. 

It is not necefiary that a man have fludied 
either mufic or the palfions, in order to his 
feeling thefe effedls. The mod ignorant and 
unimproved, to whom Nature has given a 
good ear, feel them as ftrcngly as the mofl' 

The countenance and geflure have an ex- 
preffion no lefs flrong and natural than the 
voice. The firfl: time one fees a flern and 
fierce look, a contracted brow, and a menac- 
ing pofture, he concludes that the perfon is 
inflamed with answer. Shall we fay, that, pre- 
vious to experience, the moft hoftile counte- 
nance has as agreeable an appearance as the 
moil gentle and benign? This furely would 
contradict ail experience ; for we know that an 
angry countenance will fright a child in the 
cradle. Who has not obferved, that children, 
very early, are able to diftinguifh what is faid 
to them in jeft from what is faid in earneft, 
by the tone of the voice, and the features of 
the face? 1 hey judge by thefe natural figns, 
even when they feem to contradidt the arti- 

If it were by experience that we learn the 
meaning of features, and found, and geflure, 


Firji Principles of Contingent Truths. 289 

it might be expefted that we fhould recoiled CHAP, 
the time when we firft learned thole leiTons, or, ^■ 
at lead, fome of iuch a multitude. 

Thofe who give attention to the operations 
of children, can eafily discover the time when 
they have their earlieft notices from experience, 
fuch as that flame will burn, or that knives 
will cut. But no man is able to recollect in 
himfelf, or to obferve m others, the time when 
the exprellion of the face, voice, and gefture, 
were learned. 

Nay, I apprehend that it is impoffible that 
this fhould be learned from experience. 

When we fee the fign, and fee the thing 
fignified alwavs conjoined with it, experience 
may be the inflrucior. and teach us how that 
fign is to be interpreted. But hov/ fiiall expe- 
rience inflru61: us when we fee the fign only, 
when the thing fignified is invifiblei Now this 
is the cafe here ; the thoughts and paflions of 
the mind, as wrl' as th^ mind itfelf, are invi- 
flble, and therefore their coimstlion with any 
fehfible fign cannot be firfl difcovered by ex- 
perience ; there mufl be fome earlier fource of 
this knowledge. 

Nature ieems to have given to men a faculty 
or fenfe, by which this connection is perceived. 
And the operation of this fenfe is very analo- 
gous to that of the external fenfes. 

When 1 grafp an ivory ball in my hand, I 
feel a certain ienfation of touch- In the fen- 
fation, there is nothing external, nothing cor- 
poreal. 'Ihe fcniation is neither round nor 
hard; it is an atr of feeling of the mind, from 
which I cannot, by reaioning, infer the exif- 
tence of any body. But, by the crnftirution 
of my nature, the fenfation carries along with 

Vol. II. U it 



P. it the conception and belief of a round hard 
body really exifting in my hand. 

In like manner, when I fee the features of 
an exprelTive face, I fee only figure and colour 
varioufly modified. But, by the conftitution 
of my nature, the vifible objeft brings along 
with it the conception and belief of a certain 
paflion or fentiment in the mind of the perfon. 

In the former cafe, a fenfation of touch is 
the fign, and the hardnefs and roundnefs of 
the body I grafp is fignified by that fenfation. 
In the latter cafe, the features of the perfon is 
the fign, and the pafTion or fentiment is figni- 
fied by it. 

The power of natural figns, to fignify the 
fentiments and pafTions of the mind, is feen in 
the figns of dumb perfons, who can make 
themfelves to be underftood in a confiderable 
degree, even by thofe who are wholly unexpe- 
rienced in that language. 

It is feen in the traffic which has been fre- 
quently carried on between people that have no 
common acquired language. They can buy 
and fell, and afk and refufe, and fhew a friend- 
ly or hoftile difpofition by natural figns. 

It was feen fiill more in the a£tors among 
the ancients who performed the gefticulation 
upon the ftage, while others recited the words. 
To fuch a pitch was this art carried, that we 
are told Cicero and Roscius ufed to contend 
whether the orator could exprefs any thing by 
word^, which the a6:or could not exprefs in 
dumb (how by gefliculation ; and whether the 
fame fentence or thought could not be afted 
in all the variety of ways in which the orator 
could exprefs it in words. 


firji Principles of Contingent Truths. 291 

But the moft furprifing exhibition of this CHAP, 
kind, was that of the pantomimes among the v^-^Z^ 
Romans, who aded plays, or fcenes of plays, 
without any recitation, and yet could be per- 
fectly underftood. 

And here it deferves our notice, that al- 
though it required much fludy and pradice in 
the pantomimes to excel in their art ; yet 'vi re- 
quired neither ftudy nor practice in the fpeda- 
tors to underftand them. It was a natural lan- 
guage, and therefore underflood by ail men, 
whether Romans, Greeks, or Barbarians, by 
the learned and the unlearned. 

LuciAN relates, that a King, whofe domi- 
nions bordered upon the Euxine fea, happen- 
ing to be at Rome in the reign of Nero, and 
having feen a pantomime act, begged him of 
Nero that he might ufe him in his intercourfe 
with all the nations in his neigh bo arhood : 
For, faid he, I am obliged to employ I don't 
know how many intepreters, in order to keep 
a correfpondence with neighbours who fpeak 
many languages, and do not underfland mfne; 
but this fellow will make them all underfland 

For thefe reafons, I conceive, it mufl be 
granted, not only that there is a connection 
eilabUfhed by Nature between certain figns 
in the countenance, voice, and geflure, and 
the thoughts and pafTions of the mind ; but alio, 
that, by our conflitution, we underftand the 
meaning of thofe figns, and from the fign con- 
clude the exigence of the thing fignified. 

10. Another firfl principle appears to me to 
be. That there is a certain regard due to human 
teftimony in matters of faft, and even to hu- 
man authority in matters of opinion. 

U 2 Before 



Before we are capable of reafoning about 
tcftimony or authority, there are many things 
which it concerns us to know, for which we 
can have no other evidence. The wife Author 
of nature hath planted in the human mind a 
propenfity to rely upon this evidence before we 
can give a reafon for doing fo. This, indeed, 
puts our judgment almoft entirely in the power 
of thofe that are about us, in the firll period of 
life ; but this is neceifary both to our preferva- 
tion and to our improvement. If children 
"were fo framed, as to pay no regard to telli- 
mony or to authority, they muft, in the literal 
fenfe, perifh for lack of knowledge. It is not 
more neceffary that they fhould be fed before 
they can feed themfelves, than that they fliould 
be inftructed in many things, before they can 
difcover them by their own judgment. 

But when our faculties ripen, we find reafon 
to check that propenfity to yield to teftimony 
and to authority, which was fo neceifary and 
fo natural in the firft period of life. We learn 
to reafon about the regard due to them, and 
fee it to be a chiidiih weaknefs to lay more 
flrefs upon them than reafon juilifies. Yet, I 
believe, to the end of life, moil men are more 
apt to go into this extreme than into the con- 
trary ; and the natural propenfity ftill retains 
fome force. 

The natural principles, by which our judg- 
ments and opinions are regulated before we 
come to the ufe of reafon, feem to be no lefs 
neceifary to fuch a being as man, than thofe 
natural inilinfts which the Author af nature 
hath given us to regulate our anions during 
thut period. 

II. There 

Firji Principles of Coniingent Truths. 293 

1 1. There are many events depending uponC HAP. 
the will of man, in which there is a felf-evi- V. 
dent probabiHty, greater or lefs, according to * 

There may be in fome individuals fuch a de- 
gree of phrenzy and madnefs, that no man can 
fay what they may or may not do. Such per- 
foDs we find it neceflary to put under reflraint, 
that as far as poffible they may be kept from 
doing harm to themfelves or to others. They 
are not confidered as reafonable creatures, or 
members of fociety. But, as to men who have 
a found mind, we depend upon a certain de- 
gree of regularity in their conduct ; and could 
put a thoufand different cafes, wherein we 
could venture, ten to one, that they will ad in 
fuch a way, and not in the contrary. 

If we had no confidence in our fellow men 
that they will aft fuch a part in fuch circum- 
flances, it would be impoffible to live in fociety 
with them : For that which makes men capa- 
ble of living in fociety, and uniting in a politi- 
cal body under government, is, that their acti- 
ons will always be regulated in a great meafure 
by the common principles of human nature. 

It may always be expected, that they will 
regard their own interefi; and reputation, and 
that of their families and friends ; that they 
will repel injuries, and have fome fenfe of good 
offices ; and that they will have fome regard to 
truth and juftice, fo far at leaft as not to 
fwerve from them without temptation. 

It is upon fuch principles as thcfc, that all 
political reafoning is grounded. Such reafon- 
ing is never demonftrative ; but it may have a 
very great degree of probability, efpecially 
when applied to great bodies of men. 

12. The 

294 E S S x-l Y VI. 

CHAP. 12. The laft principle of contingent truths 
^)j;^ I mention, is, That, in the phcenomena of 
njiture, what is to be, will probably be like to 
"what has been in fimilar circumftances. 

We mufl: have this conviclion as foon as we 
are capable of learning any thing from experi- 
ence; for all experience is grounded upon a 
belief that the future will be like the pad. 
Take away this principle, and the experience 
of an hundred years makes us no wifer with re- 
gard to what is to come. 

This is one of thofe principles, which, when 
we grow up and obferve the courfe of nature, 
we can confirm by reafoning. We perceive 
that Nature is governed by fixed laws, and that 
if it were not fo, there could be no fuch thing 
as prudence in human condudt; there would 
be no fitnefs in any means to promote an end; 
and what, on one occafion, promoted it, might 
as probably, on another occafion, obflrucl it. 

But the principle is neceffary for us before 
we are able to difcover it by reafoning, and 
therefore is made a part of our conftitution, 
and produces its effeds before the ufe of rea- 

This principle remains in all its force when 
we come to the ufe of reafon; but we learn to 
be more cautious in the application of it. We 
obferve more carefully the circumftances on 
W'hich the paft event depended, and learn to 
diftinguifh them from thofe which were acci- 
dentally conjoined with it. 

In order to this a number of experiments, 
varied in their circumftances, is often neceffa- 
ry. Sometimes a fingle experiment is thought 
fufficient to eftablifn a general conclufion. 
Thus, when it was once found, that, in a cer 


Firjl Principles of Contingent Truths » 295 

tain degree of cold, quickfilver became a hardC HAP. 
and malleable metal, there was good rcalbn ^ • 
to think, that the fame degree of cold \viir *'"-^ 
always produce this efFecl to the end of the 

I need hardly mention, that the whole fa- 
bric of natural philofophy is built upon this 
principle, and, if it be taken away, muit tum- 
ble down to the foundation. 

Therefore the great Newton lays it down 
as an axiom, or as one of his laws of philo- 
fophifmg, in thefe words, Effeduumnaturalium 
ejufdem generis eafdern ejfe caiifas. This is 
what every man affents to as foon as he under- 
flands it, and no man afks a reafon for it. It 
has therefore the moft genuine marks of a firfl 

It is very remarkable, ttiat although all 
our expectation of what is to happen in the 
courfe of nature is derived from the belief 
of this principle, yet no man thinks of afk- 
ing what is the ground of this belief. 

Mr. Hume, I think, was the firft who put 
this quellion; and he has fliewn clearly and 
invincibly, that it is neither grounded upon 
reafoning, nor has that kind of intuitive evi- 
dence which mathematical axioms have. It is 
not a neeeifary truth. 

He has endeavoured to account for it upon 
his own principles. It is not my bufmefs at 
prefent to examine the account he has given 
of this univerfal belief of mankind ; becaufe, 
whether his account of it be jufl or not, (and 
I think it is not), yet, as this belief is univer- 
fal among mankind, and is not grounded upon 
any antecedent reafoning, but upon the con- 
flitution of the mind itfelf, it mufl be ac- 

99^ ESSAY VI. 

CHAP, knowledged to be a firft principle, in the fenfe 
^^1 in which I ufc that word. 

I do not at 3II affirm, that thofe I have meii- 
tioned are all the firfl principles from which we 
may reafon concerning contingent truths. Such 
enumerations, even when made after much re- 
flection, are feldom perfect. 


Tirjt Principles of nccejfary Truths. 

BOUT mofl of the firft principles of 
neceflary truths there has been no dif- 
pute, and therefore it is the lefs neceffary to 
dv/ell upon them. It will be fufficicnt to di- 
vide them into different claifes; to mention 
fome, by way of fpecimen, in each clafs ; and 
to make fome remarks on thofe of which the 
truth ha^ been called in queflion. 

They may, I think, mofl properly be di- 
vided according to the fciences to which they 

1. Ihere are fome firfl principles that may 
be called grammatical; fuch as, that every 
adjedive in a fentence muif belong to fome 
fubfhantive exprefled or underflccd ; that every 
complete fentence mufi: have a verb. 

Thofe who have attended to the ffructure of 
language, and formed diftindl notions of the 
nature and ufe of the various parts of fpeech, 
perceive, v/ithout reafoning, that thefe, and 
many ether fuch principles, are neceffarily 

2. There are logical axioms; fuch as, that 
any contexture of words which does not make 

a pro- 

Firjl Principles of Neceffary Truths. 297 

a propofition, is neither true nor falfe ; that CHAP, 
every propofition is either true or falfe; that ' 

no propofition can be both true and falfe at the 
fame time; that reafoning in a circle proves 
nothing; that whatever may be truly affirmed 
of a genus, may be truly affirmed of all the 
fpecies, and all the individuals belonging to 
that genus. 

3. Every one knows there are mathematical 
axioms. Mathematicians have, from the days 
of Euclid, very wifely laid down the axioms 
or firft principles on which they reafon. And 
the effect which this appears to have had upon 
the (lability and happy progrefs of this fcience, 
gives no fmall encouragement to attempt to 
lay the foundation of other fciences in a fimilar 
manner, as far as we are able. 

Mr. Hume hath difcovered, as he appre- 
hends, a weak fide, even in mathematical 
axioms; and thinks, that it is not ftridly true, 
for inilance, that two right lines can cut one 
another in one point only. 

The principle he reafons from is. That every 
fimple idea is a copy of a preceding impreffion; 
and therefore, in its precifion and accuracy, 
can never go beyond its original. From which 
he reafons in this manner: No man ever faw 
or felt a line fo ftraight, that it might not cut 
another, equally ftraight, in two or niore 
points. Therefore there can be no idea of 
fuch a line. 

The ideas that are moft elfential to geome- 
try, fuch as, thofe of equality, of a ftraight 
line, and of a fquare furface, are far, he fays, 
from being diftinQ: and determinate; and the 
definitions dellroy the pretended deinonftrati- 




CHAP, ors. Thus, mathematical demonflratlon is 
^ ^' found to be a rope of fand. 

I agree with this acute author, that, if we 
could form no notion of points, lines, and 
furfaces, more accurate than thofe we fee and 
Jiandle, there could be no mathematical de- 

But every man that has underftanding, by 
analyfmg, by abilracting, and compounding 
the rude materials exhibited by his fenfes, can 
fabricate, in his own mind, thofe elegant and 
accurate forms of mathematical lines, furfaces, 
and folids. 

If a man finds himfelf incapable of forming 
a precife and determinate notion of the figure 
which Mathematicians call a cube, he not on- 
ly is no Mathematician, but is incapable of be- 
ing one. But, if he has a precife and deter- 
minate notion of that figure, he mud perceive, 
that it is terminated by fix mathematical fur- 
faces, perfedly fquare, and perfectly equal. 
He rnufl perceive, that thefe furfaces are ter- 
minated by twelve mathematical lines, per- 
fedlly flraight, and perfectly equal, and that 
thofe lines are terminated by eight mathema- 
tical points. 

When a man is confcious of having thefe 
conceptions diftindt and determinate, as every 
Mathematician is, it is in vain to bring meta- 
phyfical arguments to convince him that tbey 
are not diftintt. You may as well bring argu- 
ments to convince a man racked with pain, that 
he feels no pain. 

Every theory that is inconfiftent with our 
having accurate notions of mathematical hues, 
iurfaces, and folids, mull be falie. Therefore 


Firjl Principles of Necejfary Truths. 299 

it follows, that they are not copies of our im- ^ ^^ ^• 

prellions. ^...^v-^-' 

The Medicean Venus is not a copy of the 
block of marble from which it was made. It 
is true, that the elegant itatue was formed 
out of the rude block, and that too by a ma- 
nual operation, which, in a hteral fenfe, we 
may call abftraclion. Mathematical notions 
are formed in the underilanding by an ab- 
ftraftion of another kind, out of the rude per- 
ceptions of our fenfes. 

As the truths of natural philofophy are not 
necelTary truths, but contingent, depending 
upon the will of the Maker of the world, the 
principles from which they are deduced mud 
be of the fame nature, and therefore belong 
not to this clafs. 

4. I think there are axioms, even In mat- 
ters of tafte. Notwithftanding the variety 
found among men, in tafte, there are, I ap- 
prehend, fome common principles, even in 
matters of this kind. I never heard of any 
man who thought it a beauty in a human face 
to want a nofe, or an eye, or to have the 
mouth on one fide. How many ages have 
pafled fmce the days of Homer ! Yet, in this 
long traft of ages, there never was found a 
man who took Thersites for a beauty. 

The Jine arts are very properly called the 
arts of tafte ^ becaufe the principles of both are 
the fame ; and in the fine arts, we find no lefs 
agreement among thofe who praftife them than 
among other artills. 

No work of tafte can be either reHflied or 
underftood by thofe who do not agree with 
the author in the principles of tafte. 



jco ESSAY VI. 

HoMERj and Virgil, and Shakespeare, 
and Milton, had the lame tafte ; and all men 
who have been acquainted with their writings, 
and agree in the admiration of them, muft have 
the fame tafle. 

The fundamental rules of poetry and mufic 
and painting, and dramatic adion and elo- 
quence, have been always the fame, and will 
be fo to the end of the world. 

The variety we find among men in matters 
of tafle is eafily accounted for, confiftently 
■with what we have advanced. 

There is a tafte that is acquired, and a tafle 
that is natural. This holds with rcfped: both 
to the external fenfe of tafte and the internal. 
Habit and falhion have a powerful influence 
upon both. 

Of taftes that are natural, there are fome 
that may be called rational, others that are 
merely animal. 

Children are delighted with brilliant and 
gaudy colours, with romping and noify mirth, 
with feats of agility, ftrength, or cunning ; 
and favages have much the fame tafte as chil- 

But there are taftes that are more intellec- 
tual. It is the didate of our rational nature, 
that love and admiration are mifplaced when 
there is no intrinfic worth in the objeft. 

In thofe operations of tafte which are ratio- 
nal, we judge of the real worth and excellence 
of the objecl, and our love or admiration is 
guided by that judgment. In fuch operations 
there is judgment as well as feehng, and the 
feeling depends upon the judgment we form of 
the objecl. 

I do 


Firjl Principles of Neceffary Truths, 301 

I do not maintain that tafle, fo far as it is C H A P. 
acquired, or fo far as it is merely animal, can ^ *• 
be reduced to principles. But as far as it is '^"^^ 
founded on judgment, it certainly may. 

The virtues, the graces, the mufes, have a 
beauty that is intrinhc. It lies not in the feel- 
ings of the fpedator, but in the real excel- 
lence of the object. If v/e do not perceive 
their beauty, it is owing to the defe£l or to the 
perverfion of our faculties. 

And a?, there is an original beauty in cer- 
tain moral and intelledlual qualities, fo there is 
a borrowed and derived beauty in the natural 
figns and exprelTions of luch qualities. 

The features of the human face, the modu- 
lations of the voice, and the proportions, atti- 
tudes, and geuare of the body, are all natural 
expreflions of good or bad qualities of the per- 
fon, and derive a beauty or a deformity from 
the qualities which they exprefs. 

"W'orks of cst exprefs fome quality of the ar- 
tift, and often d'='rive an additional beauty from 
their uti.ity or fitncfs lor their end. 

Of fuch things there are fome that ought to 
pleafe, and others that ought to difpleafe. If 
they do not, it is owing to fome defect in the 
fpettator. But v'hat has real excellence will 
always pleafe thole who have a corredt judg- 
ment and a found heart. 

The fum of what has been faid upon this 
fubje6l is, that, fetting afide the taftes which 
men acquire by habit and falhion, there is a na- 
tural tafte, which is partly animal, and partly 
rational. With regard to the firPc, all we can 
fay is, that the Author of Nature, for wife 
realons, has formed us fo as to receive pleafure 
from the contemplation of certain objefts, and 


302 ESSAY VI. 

C HA P. difgufl from others, before we are capable of 
_ perceiving any real excellence in one, or defed: 
' ' in the other. But that tafte which we may call 
rational, is that part of our conflitution by 
which we are made to receive pleaiure from 
the contemplation of what we conceive to be 
excellent in its kind, the pleafure being an- 
nexed to this judgment, and regulated by it. 
This tafte may be true or falfe, according as 
it is founded on a true or falfe judgment. 
And if it may be true or falfe, it muft have 
firft principles. 

5. There are alfo firft principles in morals. 

That an unjuft aftion has more demerit than 
an ungenerous one : That a generous a£lion 
has more merit than a merely juft one : That 
no man ought to be blamed for what it was not 
in his power to hinder : That we ought not to 
do to others what we would think unjuft or 
unfair to be done to us in like circumftances : 
Thefe are moral axioms, and many others 
mi^ht be named which appear to me to have 
no lefs evidence than thofe of mathematics. 

Some perhaps may think, that our deter- 
minations, either in matters of tafte or in mo- 
rals, ought not to be accounted necefl'ary 
truths : That they are grounded upon the 
conftitution of that faculty which we call tafte, 
and of that which we call the moral fenfe or 
confcience ; which faculties might have been 
fo conftituted as to have given determinati- 
ons different, or even contrary to thofe they 
now give : That as there is nothing fweet or 
bitter in itfelf, but according as it agrees or 
difagrecs with the external fenfe called tafte ; 
fo there is nothing beautiful or ugly in itfelf, 
but according as it agrees or difagrees with 


Firjl Principles of Necejfary Truths. 303 

the internal fenfe, which we alfo call tafle ; 
and nothing morally good or ill in itfelf, but 
according at it agrees or dilagrees with our 
moral fenfe. 

This indeed is a fyftem, with regard to mo- 
rals and tafle, which hath been fupported in 
modern times by great authorities. And if 
this fyftem be true, the conlequence muft be, 
that there can be no principles, either of taftc 
or of morals, that are neceiTary truths. For, 
according to this fyftem, all our determinati- 
ons, both with regard to matters of tafte, and 
with regard to morals, are reduced to matters 
of fadl. I mean to fuch as thefe, that by our 
conftitution we have on fuch occafions certain 
agreeable feelings, and on other occafions cer- 
tain difagreeable feelings. 

But I cannot help being of a contrary opini- 
on, being perfuaded, that a man who deter- 
mined that polite behaviour has great defor- 
mity, and that there is great beauty in rude- 
ncfs and ill breeding, would judge wrong 
whatever his feelings were. 

In like manner, I cannot help thinking, 
that a man who determined that there is more 
moral worth in cruelty, perfidy, and injuftice, 
than in generofity, juftice, prudence, and 
temperance, would judge wrong whatever his 
conftitution was. 

And if it be true that there is judgment in 
our determinations of tafte and of morals, it 
muft be granted, that what is true or falfe in 
morals, or in matters of tafte, is neceffarily 
fo. For this reafon, I have ranked the firft 
principles of morals and of tafte under the 
clafs of ncceffary truths. 

6, The 

304 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP. 6. The laft clafs of firft principles I Ihall 

^^- mention, we may call metaphyfical. 
^'^'^^ I fhall particularly confider three of thefe, 
becaufe they have been called in queflion by 
Mr. Hume. 

The jirjl is. That the qualities which we 
perceive by our fenfes mufl have a fubjeft, 
which we call body, and that the thoughts 
we are confcious of mufl have a fubject, which 
we call mind. 

It is not more evident that two and two 
make four, than it is that figure cannot exift, 
unlefs there be fomething that is figured, nor 
motion without fomething that is moved. I 
not only perceive figure and motion, but I 
perceive them to be qualities : They have a 
neceflary relation to fomething in which they 
exift as their fubjed:. The difficulty which 
fomePhilofophershave found in admitting this, 
is entirely owing to the theory of ideas. A 
fubjed of the fenfible qualities which we per- 
ceive by our fenfes, is not an idea either of 
fenfation or of confcioufnefs ; therefore fay 
they, we have no fuch idea. Or, in the ftyle 
of Mr. Hume, from what impreffion is the 
idea of fubftance derived ? It is not a copy of 
any impreifion ; therefore there is no fuch 

The diftin<5lion between fenfible qualities, 
and the fubftance to which they belong, and 
between thought, and the mind that thinks, is 
not the invention of Philofophers ; it is found 
in the ftru£ture of all languages, and therefore 
muft be common to all men who fpeak with 
underftanding. And 1 believe no man, how- 
ever fceptical he may be in fpeculation, can 
talk on the common affairs of life for half an 


Firjl Principles of Necejfary Truths. 305 

hour, without faying things that imply hisCHAP. 
belief of the reality of thefe diftinftions. vJv-^ 

Mr Locke acknowledges, " That we can- 
" not conceive how fimple ideas offenfible 
" qualities fhould fubfifl alone ; and therefore 
" we fuppofe them to exift in, and to be fup- 
*' ported by, fome common fubjeft," In his 
Eflay, indeed, fome of his expreflions feem to 
leave it dubious, whether this belief, that fen- 
fible qualities mud have a fubje6t, be a true 
judgment, or a vulgar prejudice. But in his 
firfl letter to the Biihop of Worci;st;;r, he 
removes this doubt, and quotes many paffages 
of his EfTay, to fhew that he neither denied, 
nor doubted of the exiftence of fubflances, 
both thinking and material ; and that he be- 
lieved their exiftence on the fame ground the 
Bifhop did, to wit, " on the repugnancy to 
" our conceptions, that modes and accidents 
" fhould fubfifl by themfelves.'* He offers 
no proof of this repugnancy ; nor, I think, 
can any proof of it be given, becaufe it is a 
lirft principle. 

It were to be wifhed that Mr. Locke, who 
enquired fo accurately and fo laudably into the 
origin, certainty, and extent of human know- 
ledge, had turned his attention more particu- 
larly to the origin of thefe two opinions which 
he firmlv believed ; to wit, that fenfible qua- 
lities mufl: have a fubjeft which we call body, 
and that thought mull have a fubjed which we 
call mind. A due attention to thefe two opi- 
nions which govern the belief of all men, even 
of Sceptics in the practice of life, would pro- 
bably have led him to perceive, that fenfation 
and confcioufnefs are not the only fources of 
human knowledge ; and that there are princi- 

VoL. IL X pies 

3o6 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP pies of belief in human nature, of which we 
^I- can give no other account but that they necef- 
^•^^'^'"'^ farily refult from the conftitution of our facul- 
ties ; and that if it were in our power to throw 
off their influence upon our practice and con- 
duel, we could neither fpeak nor acl like rea- 
fonable men. 

We cannot give a reafon why we believe 
even our fenfations to be real and not fallaci- 
ous ; why we believe what we are confcious 
of; why we trufl any of our natural faculties. 
We fay, it mufl be fo, it cannot be otherwife. 
This exprelTes only a flrong belief, which is 
indeed the voice of Nature, and which there- 
fore in vain we attempt to refill:. But if, in 
fpite of Nature, we refolve to go deeper, and 
not to trull our faculties, without a reafon to 
fliew that they cannot be fallacious, I am afraid, 
that feeking to become wife, and to be as gods, 
we fhall become foolifh, and being unfatisfied 
with the lot of humanity, we Ihall throw off 
common fenfe. 

The fecond m.etaphyfical principle I mention 
is. That whatever begins to exift, mufl have a 
caufe which produced it. 

Philofophy is indebted to Mr. Hume in this 
refpedl among others, that, by calling in quef- 
tion many of the firfl principles of human 
knowledge, he hath put fpeculative men upon 
enquiring more carefully than was done before, 
into the nature of the evidence upon which they 
reft. Truth can never fuffer by a fair enqui- 
ry ; it can bear to be feen naked and in the 
fullefl light ; and the ftriclefl examination will 
always turn out in the iifue to its advantage. 
I believe Mr. Hume was the firfl who ever 


Firji Principles of Necejfary Truths, 307 

called in queftion whether things that begin toC H A P. 
exift mufl have a caufe. ^ ^• 

With regard to this point, we mud hold 
one of thefe three things, either that it is an 
opinion, for which we have no evidence, and 
which men have fooliihly taken up without 
ground ; or, fccondly. That it is capable of di- 
reft proof by argument ; or, thirdly. That it 
is felf-evident, and needs no proof, but ought 
to be received as an axiom, which cannot by 
reafonable men be called in queftion. 

The firft of thefe fuppofitions would put an 
end to all philofophy, to all religion, to all 
reafoning that would carry us beyond the ob- 
jects of fenfe, and to all prudence in the con- 
duct of life. 

As to the fecond fuppofuion, that this prin- 
ciple may be proved by direct reafoning, I am 
afraid we fhall find the proof extremely diffi- 
cult, if not altogether impoffible. 

I know only of three or four arguments that 
have been urged by Philofophers, in the way 
of abftract reafoning, to prove, that things 
which begin to exift muft have a caufe. 

One is offered by Mr. Hobbes, another by 
Dr. Samuel Clarke, another by Mr. Locke. 
Mr. Hume, in his Trcatife of Human Nature, 
has examined them all ; and, in my opinion, 
has fhewn, that they take for granted the thing 
to be proved ; a kind of falfe reafoning, which 
men are very apt to fall into when they at- 
tempt to prove what is felf-evident. 

It has been thought, that, although this 
principle does not admit of proof from abftra£t 
reafoning, it may be proved from experience, 
and may be juftly drawn by induction, from 
inftances that fall within our obfervation. 

X 2 I conceive 

3c8 ESSAY VI. 

I conceive this method of proof will leave us 
in great uncertainty, for thefe three reafons : 

ly?, Becaufe the propofition to be proved is 
not a contingent but a neceflary propofition. 
It is not, that things which begin to exift com- 
monly have a caufe, or even that they always 
in fa£t have a caufe ; but they muft have a 
caufe, and cannot begin to exift without a 

Proportions of this kind, from their nature, 
are incapable of proof by induftion. Expe- 
rience informs us only of what is or has been, 
not of what muft be ; and the conclufion muft 
be of the fame nature with the premifes. 

For this reafon, no mathematical propofition 
can be proved by induction. Though it ftiould 
be found by experience in a thoufand cafes, 
that the area of a plane triangle is equal to the 
reftangle under the altitude and half the bafe, 
this would not prove that it muft be fo in all 
cafes, and cannot be otherwife j which is what 
the Mathematician afarms. 

In like manner, though we had the moft 
ample experimental proof, that things which 
have begun to exift had a caufe, this would 
not proA c that they muft have a caufe. Expe- 
rience may flievv us what is the eftabliflied 
courfe of nature, but can never ftiew what con- 
nections of things are in their nature neceflary. 
2dh\ General maxims, grounded on expe- 
rience, have only a degree of probability pro- 
portioned to the extent of our experience, and 
ought alv/ays to be underftood fo as to leave 
room for exceptions, if future experience ftiall 
difcover any fuch. 

The law of gravitation has as full a proof 
from experience and induction as any principle 


Firji Principles of Neceffliry Truths. 309 

can be fuppofed to have. Yet, if any Philofo- C H ^^ P. 
pher Ihould, by clear experiment, fhew that ^^• 
there is a kind of matter in fome bodies which ' ' ^ 
does not gravitate, the law of gravitation ought 
to be limited by that exception. 

Now it is evident, that men have never con- 
fidered the principle of the neceiTity of caufes, 
as a truth of this kind which may admit of li- 
mitation or exception ; and therefore it has not 
been received upon this kind of evidence. 

3<i/y, 1 do not fee that experience could 
fatisfy us that every change in nature actually 
has a caufe. 

In the far greateft part of the changes in na- 
ture that fall within our obfervation, the caufes 
are unknown ; and therefore, from experience, 
we cannot know whether they have caufes 
or not. 

Caufation is not an objedt of fenfe. The 
only experience we can have of it, is in the 
confcioufnefs we have of exerting fome power 
in ordering our thoughts and actions. But 
this experience is fureiy too narrow a founda- 
tion for a general conclufion, that all things 
that have had or (hall have a beginning muil 
have a caufe. 

For thefe reafons, this principle cannot be 
drawn from experience any more than from 
abftrad reafoning. 

The third fuppofition is, That it is to be 
admitted as a firft or felf-evident principle. 
Two reafons may be urged for this. 

I/?, The univerfal confent of mankind, not 
of Philofophers only, but of the rude and un- 
learned vulgar. 

Mr. Hume, as far as I know, was the firft 
that ever expreffed any doubt of this principle. 



CHAP, ^nd when we confider that he has rejeded 
every principle of human knowledge, except- 
ing that of confcioufnefs, and has not even 
fpared the axioms of mathematics, his authority 
is of fmall weight. 

Indeed, with regard to firft principles, there 
is no reafon why the opinion of a Philofopher 
fliould have more authority than that of ano- 
ther man of common fenfe, who has been ac- 
cuftomed to judge in fuch cafes. The illiterate 
vulgar are competent judges ; and the Philofo- 
pher has no prerogative in matters of this 
kind ; but he is more liable than they to be 
mifled by a favourite fyftem, efpecially if it is 
his own. 

Setting afide the authority of Mr. Hume; 
what has philofophy been employed in, fmce 
men firft began to philofophife, but in the in- 
veftigation of the caufes of things ? This it 
has always profeiTcd, when we trace k to its 
cradle. It never entered into any man*s 
thought, before the Philofopher we have men- 
tioned, to put the previous queftion, whether 
things have a caufe or not ? Had it been 
thought poflible that they might not, it may be 
prefumed, that, in the variety of abfurd and 
contradictory caufes ailigned, fome one would 
have had recourfe to this hypothefis. 

They could conceive the world to arife from 
an effg-, from a ftruorjile between love and 

CO' _ oo 

ftrife, between moifture and drought, between 
heat and cold ; but they never fuppofed that it 
had no caufe. We know not any Atheiftic fe6l 
that ever had recourfe to this topic, though by 
it they might have evaded every argument that 
could be brought againfl them, and anfwered 
all objections to their fyflem. 


Firjl Principles of Neccffary Truths. 31,1 

But rather than adopt fuch an abfurdity,^ "^^ P- 
they contrived Ibme imaginary caufe ; iuch as ^ 
chance, a concourfe of atom?, or necellity, 
as the caufe of the univerfe. 

The accounts which Philofophers have given 
of particular phsenomena, as well as of the uni- 
verfe in general, proceed upon the fame prin- 
ciple. That every phcenomenon mud have a 
caufe, was always taken for granted. Nil 
turpiits phyfico, fays Cicero, quam fieri fine 
caufia quicquam dicere. Though an Acade- 
mic, he was dogmatical in this. And Pla- 
to, the Father of the academy, was no lefs fo. 

*' na,v']i >up aJ i/vct1ov ^Kpi; aCtU yoi^iy x^'^' TlM^- 

" US." It is impoffible that any thing fhould 
have its origin without a caufe. 

I believe Mr. Hume was the firfl who ever 
held the contary. This, indeed, he avows, 
and aflumes the honour of the difcovery. 
" It is, fays he, a maxim in philofophy, that 
*' whatever begins to exift, mull have a caufe 
" of exiftence. This is commonly taken for 
" granted in all reafonings, without any proof 
*' given or demanded. It is fuppofed to be 
*' founded on intuition, and to be one of thofe 
" maxims, which, though they may be denied 
" with the lips, it is impoOibk for men in 
" their hearts really to doubt of. But, if we 
*' examine this maxim by the idea of know- 
" ledge, above explained, we (hall difcover in 
" it no mark of fuch intuitive certainty." 
The meaning of this feems to be, that it did 
not fuit with his theory of intuitive certainty, 
and therefore he excludes it from that pri- 

The vulgar adhere to this maxim as firmly 
and univerfally as the Philofophers. Their 


oi2 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP, fuperflitions have the fame origin as the fyftems 
^^- of Philofophers, to wit, a defire to know the 
'caufes of things. Felix qui potuit rerum cognof- 
cere caiifas^ is the univerfal fenfe of men ; but 
to fay that any thing can happen without a 
caufe, fhocks the common fenfe of a favage. 

This univerfal belief of mankind is eafily ac- 
counted for, if we allow that the neceffity of a 
caufe of every event is obvious to the rational 
powers of a man. But it is impoffible to ac- 
count for it otherwife. It cannot be afcribed 
to education, to fyftems of philofophy, or to 
prieftcraft. One would think, that a Philofo- 
pher who takes it to be a general delufion or 
prejudice, would endeavour to fhow from what 
caufes in human nature fuch a general error 
may take its rife. But I forget that Mr. Hume 
might anfwer upon his own principles, that 
fince things may happen without a caufe, this 
error and delufion of men may be univerfal 
without any caufe. 

A fecond reafon why I conceive this to be a 
firft principle, is. That mankind not only 
aflfent to it in fpeculation, but that the pradice 
of life is grounded upon it in the moft import- 
ant matters, even in cafes where experience 
leaves us doubtful ; and it is impoffible to aft 
with common prudence if we fet it afide. 

In great families there are fo many bad 
things done by a certain perfonage called wo- 
hody^ that it is proverbial, that there is a no- 
body about every houfe who does a great deal 
of mifchief; and even where there is the ex- 
adeft infpeftion and government, many events 
will happen of which no other author can be 
found : So that, if we truft merely to expe- 
rience in this matter, nobody will be found to 


Firfl Principles of Necejfary Truths, 313 

be a very aftive perfon, and to have no incon-C HAP. 
fiderable fhare in the management of affairs. 
But whatever countenance this fyftem may 
have from experience, it is too fhocking to 
common fenfe to impofe upon the moft igno- 
rant. A child knows, that when his top, or 
any of his play-things are taken awav, it muft 
be done by fomebody. Perhaps it would not 
be difficult to perfuade him that it was done by 
fome invifible being, but that it fhould be done 
by nobody he cannot believe. 

Suppofe a man's houfe to be broken open, 
his money and jewels taken away. Such 
things have happened times innumerable with- 
out any apparent caufe ; and were he only to 
reafon from experience in fuch a cafe, how 
muft he behave ? He muft put in one fcale the 
inftances wherein a caufe was found of fuch an 
event, and in the other fcale, the inftances 
where no caufe was found, and the preponde- 
rant fcale muft determine, whether it be moft 
probable that there was a caufe of this event, 
or that there was none. Would any man of 
common underftanding have recourfe to fuch 
an expedient to direct his judgment ? 

Suppofe a man to be found dead on the high- 
way, his (kull fradured, his body pierced with 
deadly wounds, his watch and money carried 
off. The coroners jury fits upon the body, and 
the queftion is put, what was the caufe of this 
man's death, was it accident, or felo de fe, or 
murder by perfons unknown ? Let us fuppofe 
an adept in Mr. Hume's philofophy to make 
one of the jury, and that he infifts upon the 
previous queftion, whether there was any caufe 
of the event, and whether it happened with- 
out a caufe ? 


314 ESSAY VI. 

P. Surely, upon Mr. Hume's principles, a great 
deal might be faid upon this point j and, if 
the matter is to be determined by pad expe- 
rience, it is dubious on which fide the weight 
of argument might fland. But we may ven- 
ture to fay, that, if Mr. Hume had been of 
fuch a jury, he would have laid afide his philo- 
fophical principles, and a6led according to the 
dictates of common prudence. 

Many paffages might be produced, even in 
Mr. Hume's philofophical writings, in which 
he, unawares, betrays the fame inward con- 
viction of the neceility of caufes, which is 
common to other men. I fhall mention only 
one, in the Treatife of Human Nature, and in 
that part of it where he combats this very 
principle. " As to thofe imprellions, fays he, 
*' which arife from the fenies, their ultimate 
" caufe is, in my opinion, perfectly inexpli- 
*' cable by human reafon ; and it will always 
" be impoffible to decide with certainty, whe- 
" ther they arife immmediately from the ob- 
" jcd, or are produced by the creative power 
" of the mind, or are derived from the Au- 
" thor of our being." 

Among thefe alternatives, he never thought 
of their not arifing from any caufe. 

The arguments which Mr. Hume offers to 
prove that this is not a felf-evident principle, 
are three. FirJ}^ That all certainty arifes from 
a comparifon of ideas, and a difcovery of their 
unalterable relations, none of which relations 
imply this propofition, That whatever has a 
beginning mult have a caufe of exiftence. 
This theory of certainty has been examined 


Tirjl Principles of Necejfary Truths. 3 1 5 

The fecond argument is, That whatever we CHAP, 
can conceive is poffible. This has Hkewife ^'^• 
been examined. v-.— v-^-j 

The third argument is, That what we call 
a caufe, is only fomething antecedent to, and 
always conjoined with the effcft. This is alfo 
one of Mr. Hume's peculiar \io6lrines, which 
we may have occafion to confider afterwards. 
It is fufficient here to obferve, that we may 
learn from it that night is the caufe of day, 
and day the caufe of night : For no two things 
have more conftantly followed each other fmce 
the beginning of the world. 

The lajl metaphyfical principle I mention, 
which is oppofed by the fame author, is. That 
dcfign, and intelligence in the caufe, may be 
inferred, with certainty, from marks or figns 
of it in the effect. 

Intelligence, defign, and fkill, are not ob- 
jefts of the external fenfes, nor can we be con- 
fcious of them in any perfon but ourfelves. 
Even in ourfelves, we cannot, v/ith propriety, 
be faid to be confcious of the natural or acqui- 
red talents we pofiefs. We are confcious only 
of the operations of mind in which they are ex- 
erted. Indeed, a man to know his own 
mental abilities, jufl as he knows another 
man's, by the effefts they produce, when there 
is occafion to put them to exercife. 

A man's wifdom is known to us only by the 
figns of it in his condudt ; his eloquence by the 
figns of it in his fpeech. In the fame manner 
we judge of his virtue, of his fortitude, and 
of all his talents and virtues. 

Yet it is to be obferved, that we judge of 
mens talents with as little doubt or hefitation 
as we judge of the immediate objeds of fenfe. 


3i6 ESSAY VI. 

One perfon, we are fure, is a perfeft idiot ; 
another, who feigns idiocy to fcreen himfelf 
from punifhment, is found upon trial to have 
the underflanding of man, and to be account- 
able for his condu£t. We perceive one man 
to be open, another cunning ; one to be ig- 
norant, another very knowing ; one to be 
flow of underflanding, another quick. Every 
man forms fuch judgments of thofe he conver- 
fes with ; and the common affairs of life de- 
pend upon fuch judgments. We can as little 
avoid them as we can avoid feeing what is be- 
fore our eyes. 

From this it appears, that it is no lefs a part 
of the human conflitution, to judge of mens 
charaders, and of their intelledual powers, 
from the figns of them in their adions and dif- 
courfe, than to judge of corporeal objects by 
our fenfes : That fuch judgments are common 
to the whole human race that are endowed with 
underflanding ; and that they are abfolutely 
necelfary in the condudl of life. 

Now, every judgment of this kind we form, 
is only a particular application of the general 
principle, that intelligence, vvifdom, and other 
mental qualities in the caufc, may be inferred 
from their marks or figns in the efFe6l. 

The actions and difcourfes of men are efFe£ls, 
of which the actors and fpeakers are the caufes. 
The effects are perceived by our fenfes ; but 
the caufes are behind the fcene. We only con- 
clude their exiflence and their degrees from 
our obfervation of the effects. 

From wife condud we infer wifdom in the 
caufe ; from brave actions we infer courage ; 
and fo in other cafes. 


Firji Principles of Ncceffary Truths. 3 1 7 

This inference is made with perfeft fecurityC HAP. 
by all men. We cannot avoid it ; it is ne- ^^• 
ceflary in the ordinary conduct of life ; it has 
therefore the ftrongell marks of being a firft 

Perhaps fome may think that this principle 
may be learned either by reafoning or by ex- 
perience, and therefore that there is no ground 
to think it a firft principle. 

If it can be fhewn to be got by reafoning, 
by all, or the greater part of thofe who are 
governed by it, I fliall very readily acknow- 
ledge that it ought not to be efteemed a firft 
principle. But i apprehend the contrary ap- 
pears from very convincing arguments. 

Firjiy The principle is too univerfal to be 
the efte6: of reafoning. It is common to Phi- 
lofophers and to the vulgar ; to the learned and 
the moft illiterate ; to the civilized and to the 
favage : And of thofe who are governed by it, 
not one in ten thoufand can give a reafon for 

Secondly^ We find Philofophers, ancient 
and modern, who can reafon excellently in 
fubjedts that admit of reafoning, when they 
have occafion to defend this principle, not of- 
fering reafons for it, or any medium of proof, 
but appealing to the common fenfe of man- 
kind ; mentioning particular inftances, to 
make the abfurdity of the contrary opinion 
more apparent, and fometimes ufing the wea- 
pons of wit and ridicule, which are very pro- 
per weapons for refuting abfurdities, but al- 
together improper in points that are to be de- 
termined by reafoning. 

To confirm this obfervation, I fliall quote 
two authors, an ancient and a modern, who 


3i8 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP, have more exprefsly undertaken the defence of 
^^ this principle than any others I remember to 
'""^'^^^ have met with, and whofe good fenfe and abi- 
lity to reafon, where reafoning is proper, will 
not be doubted. 

The firft is Cicero, whofe words, /ib. i. 
cap. 13. De divinatione, may be thus tranflat- 

" Can any thing done by chance have all 
" the marks of defign ? Four dice may by 
" chance turn up four aces ; but do you think 
" that four hundred dice, thrown by chance, 
" will turn upfour hundred acesPColours thrown 
" upon canvas without defign may have fome 
" fimilitude to a human face ; but do you 
" think they might make as beautiful a picture 
" as that of the Coan Venus ? A hog turning 
" up the ground with his nofe may make 
" fomething of the form of the letter A ; but 
" do you think that a hog might defcribe on 
" the ground the Andromache of Ennius ? 
" Carneades imagined, that in the ftone 
" quarries at Chios he found, in a ftone that 
*' was fplit, a reprefentation of the head of a 
" little Pan, or fylvan deity. I believe he 
" might find a figure not unlike ; but furcly 
'* not fuch a one as you would fay had been 
" formed by an excellent Sculptor hke Scopas. 
" For fo, verily, the cafe is, that chance never 
" perfectly imitates defign.'* Thus Cicero. 

Now, in all this difcourfe I fee very good 
fenfe, and what is apt to convince every un- 
prejudiced mind ; but I fee not in the whole a 
fingle ftep of reafoning. It is barely an appeal 
to every man's common fenfe. 


Firji Principles of Neceffary truths. 319 

Let us next fee how the fame point is hand-C H A P. 
led by the excellent Archbiftiop Iillotson, ^^• 
ifb Sermon, vol. 1. • 

" For I appeal to any man of reafon, whe- 
" ther any thing can be more unreafonable, 
" than obftinately to impute an etfecl to chance 
" which carries in the face of it all the argu- 
" ments and characters of defign? Was ever 
'* any confiderable work, in which there was 
" required a great variety of parts, and an 
" orderly and regular adjuflment of thefe 
" parts, done by chance? Will chance fit 
*' means to ends, and that in ten thoufand in- 
*' fiances, and not fail in any one? How often 
" might a man, after he had jumbled a fet of 
*' letters in a bag, fling them out upon the 
" gound before they would fall into an exact 
*' poem, yea or fo much as make a good dif- 
" courfe in profe? And may not a Httle book 
*' be as enfily made as this great volume of the 
" world? How long might a man fprinkle co- 
" lours upon canvas with a carelefs hand before 
" they would make the exaft picture of a man? 
" And is a man eafier made by chance than 
*' his picture? How long might twenty thou- 
" fand bhnd men, which (hould be fent out 
" from the remote parts of England, wander 
" up and down before they would all meet up- 
" on Salifbury plains, and fall into rank and 
" file in the exaft order of an army ? And yet 
'* this is much more eafy to be imagined than 
" how the innumerable blind parts of matter 
*' (hould rendezvous themfelves into a world. 
" A man that fees Henry the Seventh's chapel 
" at Wcflminfter might with as good reafon 
" maintain, (yea and much better, confider- 
" ing the vaft difference between that little 

" flruCture 

320 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP." ftruclure and the huge fabric of the world), 
^ • *' that it was never contrived or built by any 
*~''^''"^" man, but that the flones did by chance grow 
" into thofe curious figures into which we fee 
" them to have been cut and graven; and that 
*' upon a time (as tales ufually begin), the 
" materials of that building, the ftone, mor- 
" tar, timber, iron, lead, and glais, happily 
'' met together, and very fortunately ranged 
*' themfelves into that delicate order in which 
" we fee them now fo clofe compared, that it 
" mud be a very great chance that parts them 
" again. What would the world think of a 
" man that fliould advance fuch an opinion as 
" this, and write a book for it? If they would 
" do him right, they ought to look upon him 
" as mad. But yet he might maintain this opi- 
" nion with a little more reafon than any man 
*' can have to fay that the world was made by 
" chance, or that the firft men grew out of the 
*' earth, as plants do now. For can any thing 
" be more ridiculous and againft all reafon, 
" than to afcribe the produ£lion of men to the 
" firft fruitfulnefs of the earth, without fo 
" much as one inflance or experiment in any 
age or hiftory to countenance fo monftrous 
" a fuppofition? The thing is at firft fight fo 
grofs and palpable, that no difcourfe about 
" it can make it more apparent. And yet 
" thefe fhameful beggars of principles, who 
" give this precarious account of the original 
" of things, affume to themfelves to be the 
'* men of reafon, the great wits of the world, 
" the only cautious and wary perfons, who 
*' hate to be impoftd upon, that muft have 
" convincing evidence for every thing, and can 
" admit nothing without a clear demonftration 
« for it." 



lirji Principles of NeceJJary Truths » 321 

In this paflage, the excellent author takes CHAP, 
what I conceive to be the proper method of ^^• 
refuting an abfurdity, by expofmg it in dif- 
ferent lights, in which every man of common 
underftanding perceives it to be ridiculous. 
And although there is much good fenfe, as 
well as v/it, in the paflage I have quoied, I 
cannot find one medium of proof in the whole. 

I have met with one or two refredk/ole au- 
thors who draw an argument from the doctrine 
of chances, to fliew how improbable it is that 
a recular arrangement of parts ihould be the 
efFed of chance, or that it fnould not be the 
effeft of defign. 

I do not obje6t to this reafoning; but I 
would obferve, that the doctrine of chances 
is a branch of mathematics little more than an 
hundred years old. But the conclufion drawn 
from it has been held by all men from the be- 
ginning of the W'orld. It cannot, therefore, 
be thought that men have been led to this con- 
clufion by that reafoning. Indeed, it mav be 
doubted whether the firfl principle upon which 
all the mathematical reafoning about chances 
is grounded, is more felf-evident than this con- 
clufion drawn from it, or whether it is not a 
particular inftance of that general conclufion. 

We are next to confider whether we may 
not learn this truth from experience. That ef- 
fects which have all the marks and tokens of 
defign mufh proceed from a defigning caufe. 

I apprehend that we cannot learn this truth 
from experience, for two reafons. 

Firji, Becaufe it is a neceifarv truth, not a 
contingent one. It agrees with the experience 
of mankind fince the beginning of the world. 

Vol. II. Y that 

322 ESSAY VI. 

C H A P. that the area of a triangle is equal to half the 
^^- reclangle under its bafe and perpendicular. 
It agrees no lefs with experience, that the fun 
rifes in the eaft and fets in the weft. So far 
as experience goes, thefe truths are upon an 
equal footing. But every man perceives this 
diflinftion between them, that the firft is a 
necefl'ary truth, and that it is impoffible it 
fhould not be true; but the lad is not necef- 
fary, but contingent, depending upon the will 
of him who made the world. As we cannot 
learn from experience that twice three muft ne- 
ceflarily make fix, fo neither can we learn from 
experience that certain effefts muft proceed 
from a defigning and intelligent caufe. Expe- 
rience informs us only of what has been, but 
never of what muft be. 

Secondly^ It may be obferved, that experi- 
ence can fliow a connection between a fign, 
and the thing fignined by it, in thofe cafes only, 
where both the fign and thing fignified are 
perceived, and have always been perceived in 
conjunclion. But if there be any cafe where 
the fign only is perceived, experience can ne- 
ver fhew its connection with the thing fignified. 
Thus, for example, thought is a fign of a 
thinking principle or mind. But how do we 
know that thoug^ht cannot be without a mind, 
if anv man fhould fay that he knows this by 
experience, he deceives himfelf. It is impof- 
fible he can have any experience of this ; be- 
caufe, though we have an immediate know- 
ledge of the exiitence of thought in ourfelves 
by confcioufnefs, yet we have no immediate 
knov.ledge of a mind. The mind is not an 
immediate object either of fenfe or of confci- 
oufnefs. We may therefore juftly conclude, 


Firjl Principles of Neceffary Truths, 323 

that the neceffary conneclion between thought^ HAP. 
and a mind, or thinking being, is not learned ^Ji^ 
from experience. 

The fame reafoning may be applied to the 
connexion between a work excellently fitted 
for fome purpofe, and defign in the author or 
caufe of that work. One of thefe, to wit, 
the work, may be an immediate object of per- 
ception. But the defign and purpofe of the 
author cannot be an immediate objeft of per- 
ception; and therefore experience can never 
inform us of any conneclion between the one 
and the other, far lefs of a neceffary connec- 

Thus I think it appears, that the principle 
we have been confidering, to wit, that from 
certain figns or indications in the effed:, we 
may infer, that there muft have been intelli- 
gence, wifdom, or other intellectual or moral 
qualities in the caufe, is a principle which we 
get, neither by reafoning nor by experience; 
and therefore, if it be a true principle, it muft 
be a firft principle. There is in the human 
underftanding a light, by which we fee imme- 
diately the evidence of it, when there is occa- 
fion to apply it. 

Of how great importance this principle is 
in common life, we have already obferved. 
And I need hardly mention its importance in 
natural theology. 

The clear marks and fignatures of wifdom, 
power and goodnefs, in the conflitution and 
government of the world, is, of all arguments 
that have been advanced for the being and pro- 
vidence of the Deity, that which in all ages 
has made the ftrongeft impreffion upon candid 
and thinking minds ; an argument, which has 
Y 2 this 


this peculiar advantage, that it gathers 
ftrength as human knowledge advances, and 
is more convincing at prefent than it was feme 
centuries ago. 

King Alphonsus might fay, that he could 
contrive a better planetary fyflem than that 
which Aftronomers held in his day. That 
fyltem was not the work of God, but the fic- 
tion of men. 

But fmce the true fyftem of the fun, moon, 
and planets, has been difcovered, no man, 
however atheiftically difpofed, has pretended 
to fhew how a better could be contrived. 

V/hen we attend to the marks of good con- 
trivance which appear in the works of God, 
every difcovery we make in the conflitution of 
the material or intelledual fyftem becomes a 
hymn of praife to the great Creator and Go- 
vernor of the w^orld. And a man who is pof- 
fefied of the genuine fpirit ot philofophy will 
think it impiety to contaminate the Divine 
workmanfhip, by mixing it with thofe fiftions 
of human fancy, called theories and hypothefes, 
which will always bear the fignatures of human 
folly, no lefs than the other does of Divine 

I know of no perfon who ever called in quef- 
tion the principle now under our confideration, 
v.hen it is applied to the actions and difcour- 
• fes of men : For this would be to deny that 
we have any means of difcerning a wife man 
from an idiot, or a man that is illiterate in the 
hip^heft degree from a man of knowledge and 
learning, which no man has the effrontery to 

But, in all ages, thofe who have been un- 
friendly to the principles of religion, have 


Firjl Principles of Neccjfary Truths, 325 

made attempts to weaken the force of the ar- C H A P. 
gument for the exiflcnce and perfedlons of ^^• 
the Deity, which is founded on this principle. """^ """"^ 
That argument has got the name of the argu- 
ment from final caufes ; and as the meaning 
of this name is well underftood, we iliall ufe 

The argument from final caufes, when redu- 
ced to a fyllogifm, has thefe two premifes : 
Firji, That defign and intelligence in the caufc, 
may, with certainty, be inferred from marks 
or figns of it in the eife£l. This is the prin- 
ciple we have been confidering, and we may 
call it the major propofition of the argument. 
The fecond, which we call the 7ninor propofiti- 
on, is. That there are in fad the cleareft 
marks of defign and wifdom in the works of 
Nature ; and the conclufion is, that the works 
of Nature are the effeds of a wife and intelli- 
gent caufe. One mufl either affent to the con- 
clufion, or deny one or other of the premifes. 

Thofe among the ancients who denied a 
God or a Providence, feem to me to have 
yielded the major propofition, and to have de- 
nied the minor ; conceiving that there are not 
in the conftitution of things fuch marks of 
wife contrivance as are fufficient to put the 
conclufion beyond doubt. This, I think, we 
may learn, from the realoning of Cotta the 
Academic, in the third book of Cicero, of 
the Nature of the Gods. 

The gradual advancement made in the know- 
ledge of Nature hath put this opinion quite 
out of countenance. 

When the ftrudure of the human body was 
much lefs known than it is now, the famous 
Galen faw fuch evident marks of wife contri- 

326 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP, vance in it, that though he had been educated 
v-A--^ an Epicurean, he renounced that fyftem, and 
wrote his book of the ufe of the parts of the 
human body, on purpofe to convince others of 
what appeared fo clear to himfelf, that it was 
impoffible that fuch admirable contrivance 
Hiould be the eiiect of chance. 

Thofe, therefore, of later times, who are 
diffatished with this argument from final caufes, 
have quitted the ftrcng hold of the ancient 
Atheifts, which had become untenable, and 
have chofen rather to make a defence againll 
the major propofition. 

Des Cartes feems to have led the way in 
this, though he was no Atheifl. But, having 
invented fome new arguments for the being of 
God, he was perhaps led to difparage thofe 
that had been ufed before, that he might 
bring more credit to his own. Or perhaps he 
was offended with the Peripatetics, becaufe 
they often mixed final caufes with phyfical, in 
order to account for the phsenomena of na- 

He maintained therefore that phyfical caufes 
only fhould be affigned for phsenomena ; that 
the Philofopher has nothing to do with final 
caufes ; and that it is prefumption in us to pre- 
tend to determine for what end any work of 
nature is framed. Some of thofe who were 
great admirers of Des Cartes, and followed 
him in many points, differed from him in this, 
particularly. Dr. Henry More and the pious 
Archbifhop Fenelon : But others, after the 
example of Des Cartes, have fhewn a con- 
tempt of all reafoning from final caufes. 
Among thefe, I think, we may reckon Mau- 
pertttis and Buffon. But the moft dire6t 


Firjl Principles of Neceffary Truths. 327 

attack has been made upon this principle byCH AP. 
Mr. Hume, who puts an argument in the ^^• 
mouth of an Epicurean, on which he feems to ' • -^ 
lay great itrefs. 

The argument is, That the univerfe is a fm- 
gular efteft, and therefore we can draw no 
conclufion from it, whether it may have been 
made by wifdom or not. 

If I underftand the force of this argument, 
it amounts to this. That, if we had been ac- 
cuftomed to fee worlds produced, fome by 
wifdom and others without it, and had ob- 
fcrved, that fuch a world as this which we in- 
habit was always the efte<Sl of wifdom, we 
might then, from pail experience, conclude, 
that this world was made by wifdom ; but hav- 
ing no fuch experience, we have no means of 
forming any conclufion about it. 

That this is the ftrength of the argument, 
appears, becaufe if the marks of wifdom feen 
in one world be no evidence of wifdom, the 
like marks feen in ten thoufand will give as lit- 
tle evidence, unlefs, in time paft, we perceiv- 
ed wifdom itfelf conjoined with the tokens of 
it ; and, from their perceived conjundtion in 
time paft, conclude, that although, in the 
prefent world, we fee only one of the two, the 
other muft accompany it. 

Whence it appears, that this reafoning of 
Mr. Hume is built on the fuppofition, that 
our inferring defign from the ftrongeft marks 
of it, is entirely owing to our pad experience 
ol having always found thefe two things con- 
joined. But I hope I have made it evident 
that this is not the cafe. And indeed it is 
evident, that, according to this reafoning, we 


328 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP can have no evidence of mind or defign in any 
of our fellow-men. 

^"^'^^^^ How do i know that any man of my acquain- 
tance hab underftanding ? 1 never faw his un- 
derftanding. • I fee only certain effects, which 
my judgment leads me to conclude to be marks 
and tokens of it. 

But, fays the fceptical Philofopher, you can 
conclude nothing from thefe tokens, unlefs 
pail experience has informed you that fuch to- 
kens are always joined with underftanding. 
Alas ! Sir, it is impofTible I can ever have this 
experience. The underliandin^ of another 
man is no immediate object of fight, or of any 
other faculty which God hath given me ; and 
unlefs I can conclude its exiftence from tokens 
that are vifible, I have no evidence that there 
is underftanding in any man. 

It feems then, that the man who maintains, 
that there is no force in the argument from fi- 
nal caufes, muft, if he will be confiftent, fee 
no evidence of the exiftence of any intelligent 
being but himfelf. 



OPINIONS ahoui firjl PRINCIPLES. 329 




Opinions ancient arid modern about jirft Princi- 

I Know no writer who has treated exprefsly 
of firft principles before Aristotle ; but 
it is probable, that, in the ancient Pythago- 
rean fchool, from which both Plato and 
Aristotle borrowed much, this fubject had 
not been left untouched. 

Before the time of Aristotle, confidera- 
ble progrefs had been made in the mathema- 
tical fciences, particularly in geometry. 

The difcovery of the forty-feventh propofi- 
tion of the firft book of Euclid, and of the 
five regular folids, is, by antiquity, afcribed 
to Pythagoras himfelf; and it is impoffible 
he could have made thofe difcoveries without 
knowing many other propofitions in mathema- 
tics. Aristotle mentions the incommenfu- 
rability of the diagonal of a fquare to its fide, 
and gives a hint of the manner in which it was 
demonftrated. We find likewife fome of the 
axioms of geometry mentioned by Aristotle 
as axioms, and as indemonftrable principles, of 
mathem.atical reafoning. 

It is probable, therefore, that.j before the 
time of Aristotle, there were elementary 
Treatifes of geometry, which are now loft ; 
and that in them the axioms were diflinguifhed 
from the propofitions which require proof. 

To iuppofe, that fo perfeQ: a fyflem as that 
of Euclid's Elem.ents was produced by one 
man, without any preceding model or mate- 


C H A P. rials, would be to fup-.ofe Euclid more than 
\\- a man. We afcribe to him as much as the 
^ weaknefs of human underilanding will per- 
mit, if we fuppofe that the inventions in geo- 
metry, which had been made in a tract of pre- 
ceding ages, were by him not only carried 
much farther, but digefled into fo admirable a 
fyftem, that his work obfcured all that went 
before it, and made them be forgot and loft. 

Perhaps, in like manner, the writings of 
Aristotle v/ith regard to lirft principles, and 
with regard to many other abllraft fubjefts, 
may have occafioned the lofs of what had been 
written upon thofe fubjecls by more ancient 

Whatever may be in this, in his fecond 
book upon demonft ration he has treated very 
fully or firil principles ; and though he has not 
attempted any enumeration of them, he fliows 
very clearly, that all demonftration muft be 
built upon truths which are evident of them- 
felves, but cannot be demonftrated. His 
whole doftrine of fyllogifms is grounded upon 
a few axioms, from v/hich he endeavours to 
demonftrate the rules of fyllogifm in a mathe- 
matical way ; and in his topics he points out 
many of the firit principles of probable rea- 

As long as the philofophy of Aristotle 
prevailed, it was held as a fixed point, that 
all proof muft be drawn from principles already 
known and granted. 

We miuft obferve, however, that, in that 
philofophy, many things were aftumed as firft 
principles, which have no juft claim to that 
character ; fuch as, that the earth is at reft ; 
that Nature abhors a vacuum j that there is no 


OPINIONS about firjl PRINCIPLES. 33 1 

change in the heavens above the fphere of the^ ^ ^ ^• 
moon ; that the heavenly bodies move in cir- ,^,^^L, 
cles, that being the mofl perfed: figure ; that 
bodies do not gravitate in their proper place; 
and many others. 

The Peripatetic philofophy, therefore, in- 
ftead of being deficient in firll principles, was 
redundant ; inftead of reje(5ling thofe that are 
truly fuch, it adopted, as firll principles, many 
vulgar prejudices and rafli judgments : And 
this feems in general to have been the fpirit of 
ancient philofophy. 

It is true, there were among the ancients 
fceptical Philofophers who profeffed to have no 
principles, and held it to be the greatefl virtue 
in a Philofopher to with-hold afl'ent, and keep 
his judgment in a perfect equilibrium between 
contradictory opinions. But though this feft 
was defended by fome perfons of great erudi- 
tion and acutenefs, it died of itfelf, and the 
dogmatic philofophy ot Aristotle obtained a 
complete triumph over it. 

What Mr. Hume fays of thofe who are fcep- 
tical with regard to moral diftinclions, feems 
to have had its accomplifliment in the ancient 
feci of Sceptics. " The only way, fays he, 
'• of converting antagonifts of this kind, is to 
" leave them to themfelves ; for finding that 
" nobody keeps up the controverfy with them, 
" it is probable they will at lad of themfelves, 
" from mere wearinefs, come over to the fide 
" of common fenfe and reafon.** 

Setting afide this fmall fe6l of the Sceptics, 
which was extin£t many ages before the autho- 
rity of Aristotle declined, I know of no op- 
pofition made to firft principles among the an- 
cients. The difpofition was, as has been ob- 


332 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP.ferved, not to oppofe, but to multiply them 
^^ beyond meafure. 

Men have always been prone, when they 
leave one extreme to run into the oppofite ; 
and this fpirit in the ancient phiiofophy to 
multiply firft principles beyond reafon, was a 
ftrong prefage, that, when the authority of 
the Peripatetic fyilem was at an end, the next 
reigning fyltem would diminifh their number 
beyond reafon. 

This accordingly happened in that great re- 
volution of the philofophical republic brought 
about by Des Cartes. That truly great re- 
former in philofophy, cautious to avoid the 
fnare in which Aristotle was taken, of ad- 
mitting things as firft principles too raflily, 
refolved to doubt of every thing, and to with- 
hold his aflent, until it was forced by the clear- 
efl evidence. 

Thus Des Cartes brought himfelf into that 
very ftate of fufpenfe, which the ancient Scep- 
tics recommended as the highcil perfection of 
a wife man, and the only road to tranquillity 
of mind. But he did not remain long in this 
ftate ; his doubt did not arife from defpair of 
finding the truth, but from caution, that he 
might not be impofed upon, and embrace a 
cloud inftead of a goddefs. 

His very doubting convinced him of his own 
exiftence ; for that which does not exift, can 
neither doubt, nor believe, nor reafon. 

Thus he emerged from univerfal fcepticifm 
by this fhort enthymeme, cogito ergo fum. 

This enthymeme confifts of an antecedent 
propofition, / think, and a conclufion drawn 
from it, therefore I ex'i/i. 


OPINIONS about firjl PRINCIPLES. y:,^-, 

If it fhould be aflced, how Des CartesCHAP. 
came to be certain of the anLecedent propofi- ^'^^' 
tion, it is evident, that for this he trufled to' — ^^~~^ 
the teftimony of confcioufnefs. He was con- 
fcious that he thought, and needed no other 

So that the firfl principle which he adopts in 
this famous enthymeme is this, That thofe 
doubts, and thoughts, and reafonings, of 
which he was confcious, did certainly exift, 
and that his confcioufnefs put their exiftencc 
beyond all doubt. 

It might have been objected to this firft prin- 
ciple of Des Cartes, how do you know that 
vour confcioufnefs cannot deceive you ? You 
have fuppofed, that all you fee, and hear, and 
handle, may be an illufion. Why therefore 
fhould the power of confcioufnefs have this pre- 
rogative, to be believed implicitly, when all 
our other powers are fuppofed fallacious ? 

To this objection, I know no other anfwer 
that can be made, but that we find it impoffiblc 
to doubt of thmgs of which we are confcious. 
The conftitution of our nature forces this be- 
lief upon us irrefiflibly. 

This is true, and is fufficient to juPtify Des 
Cartes, in affuming, as a firft principle, the 
exiftence of thought, of which he was con- 

He ought, however, to have, gone farther in 
this track, and to have confidered whether 
there may not be other firft principles which 
ought to be adopted for the fame reafon. But - 
he did not fee this to be neceffary, conceiving 
that, upon this one firft principle, he could 
fupport the whole fabric of human knowledge. 


334 ESSAY VI. 

To proceed to the conclufion of Des Car- 
TEs's enthymeme. From the exiflence of his 
thought he infers his own exiflence. Here 
he aflumcs another fuft principle, not a con- 
tingent, but a neceflary one; to wit, that 
where there is thought, there mud be a think- 
ing being or mind. 

Having thus eftabliflied his own exiflence, 
he proceeds to prove the exiflence of a fupreme 
and infinitely perfeft Being; and, from the 
perfeftion of the Deity, be infers that his fen- 
fes, his memory, and the other faculties which 
God had given him, are not fallacious. 

Whereas other men, from the beginning of 
the world, had taken for granted, as a firfl 
principle, the truth and reality of what they 
perceive by their fenfes, and from thence in- 
ferred the exiflence of a Supreme Author and 
Maker of the world, Des Cartes took a con- 
trary courfe, conceiving that the teflimony of 
our fenfes, and of all our faculties, excepting 
that of confcioufnefs, ought not to be taken 
for granted, but to be proved by argument. 

Perhaps Ibme may think that Des Cartes 
meant only to admit no other firft principle of 
contingent truths befides that of confcioufnefs; 
but that he allowed the axioms of mathema- 
tics, and of other neceffary truths, to be re- 
ceived without proof. 

But I apprehend this was not his intention : 
For the truth of mathem.atical axioms muft de- 
pend upon the truth of the faculty by which 
we judge of them. If the faculty be fallaci- 
ous, we m.ay be deceived by trufting to it. 
Therefore, as he fuppofes that all our faculties, 
excepting confcioufnefs, may be fallacious, and 
attempts to prove by argument that they are 


OPINIONS about firjl PRINCIPLES. 335 

not. It follows, that, according to his princi- C \\ A P. 
pies, even mathematical axioms require proof. • 

Neither did he allow that there are any necef- ' " 
fary truths, but mahitained, that the truths 
which are commonly fo called, depend upon 
the will of God. And we find his followers, 
w^ho may be fuppofed to underdand his princi- 
ples, agree in maintaining, that the knowledge 
of our own exidence is the firft and funda- 
mental principle from which all knowledge 
mud be deduced by one who proceeds regularly 
in philofophy. 

There is, no doubt, a beauty in raifing a 
large fabric of knowledge upon a few firll 
principles. The (lately fabric of mathematical 
knowledge, raifed upon the foundation of a 
few axioms and definitions, charms every be- 
holder. Des Cartes, who was well acquaint- 
ed with this beauty in the mathematical fci- 
ences, feems to have been ambitious to give 
the fame beautiful fimplicity to his fyftem of 
philofophy; and therefore fought only one 
firft principle as the foundation of all our 
knowledge, at lead of contingent truths. 

And fo far has his authority prevailed, that 
thofe who came after him have almod univer- 
fally followed him in this track. This, there- 
fore, may be confidered as the fpirit of modern 
philofophy, to allow of no fird principles of 
contingent truths but this one, that the thoughts 
and operations of our own minds, of which 
we are confcious, are felf-evidently real and 
true ; but that every thing elfe that is contin- 
gent is to be proved by argument. 

The exidence of a material world, and of 
what we perceive by our fenfcs, is not felf-evi- 
dent, according to this philofophy. Des Car- 


TEs founded it upon this argument, That God, 
who hath given us our fenfes, and all our fa- 
culties, is no deceiver, and therefore they are 
not fallacious. 

I endeavoured to fhow, that if it be not ad- 
mitted as a firft principle, that our faculties 
are not fallacious, nothing elfe can be admit- 
ted ; and that it is impoffible to prove this by 
argument, unlefs God fliould give us new 
faculties to fit in judgment upon the old. 

Father Malebranche agreed with Des 
Cartes, that the exiflence of a material world 
requires proof; but being diifatisfied with 
Des Cartes's argument from the perfection 
of the Deity, thought that the only folid proof 
is from divine revelation. 

Arnauld, who was engaged in controverfy 
with Malebranche, approves of his antago- 
nift in offering an argument to prove the exifl- 
ence of the material world, but obje6ts to the 
folidity of his arguments, and offers other ar- 
guments of his own. 

Mr. Norris, a great admirer of Des Car- 
tes and of Malebranche, feems to have 
thought all the arguments offered by them and 
by Arnauld to be weak, and confeffes that 
we have at beil only probable evidence of the 
exigence of the material world. 

Mr. Locke acknowledges that the evidence 
we have of this point is neither intuitive nor 
demonflrative; yet he thinks it may be called 
knowledge, and diftinguiflies it by the name 
of fenfitive knowledge; and, as the ground 
of this fenfitive knowledge, he offers fome 
weak arguments, which would rather tempt 
one to doubt than to believe. 


OPINIONS about firji PRINCIPLES. Z'^^ 

Kx. laft Bifliop Berkeley and ArthurCHAP. 
Collier, without any knowledge of each J^^v^ 
other, as far as appears by their writings, un- 
dertook to prove that there neither is nor can 
be a material world. The excellent flyle and 
elegant compofition of the former have made 
his writings to be known and read, and this 
fyflem to be attributed to him only, as if Col- 
lier had never exifted. 

Both, indeed, owe fo much to Male- 
BRANCHE, that if we take out of his fyflem the 
peculiarities of our feeing all things in God, and 
our learning the exiftence of an external world 
from divine revelation, what remains is jufl the 
fyflem of Bifliop Berkeley. I make this 
obfervationbythe way, injuflice to a foreign au- 
thor, to whom Britifh authors feem not to have 
allowed all that is due. 

Mr, Hume hath adopted Bifhop Berke- 
ley's arguments againfl the exiflence of mat- 
ter, and thinks them unanfwerable. 

We may obferve, that this great Metaphyfi- 
cian, though in general he declares in favour 
of univerfal fcepticifm, and therefore may 
feem to have no firft principles at all, yet, with 
Des Cartes, he always acknowledges the 
reality of thofe thoughts and operations of 
mind of which we are confcious. So that he 
yields the antecedent of Des Cartes's enthy- 
meme cogiio, but denies the conclufion ergo 
Jum^ the mind being, according to him, no- 
thing but that train of imprelTions and ideas of 
which we are confcious. 

Thus we fee, that the modern philofophy, 
of which Des Cartes may juflly be accounted 
the founder, being built upon the ruins of the 
Peripatetic, has a fpirit quite oppofite, and 

Vol. II. Z runs 


C H A P. runs into a contrarv extreme. The Peripatetic 
^ ^^' not only adopted as firll principles thofe which 
"^^^^^"^"^ mankind have ahvay relied upon in their moft 
important tranlaftions, but, along with them, 
many vulgar prejudices ; fo that this fyflem was 
founded upon a wide bottom, but in many- 
parts unfound. The modern fyftem has nar- 
rowed the foundation fo much, that every fu- 
perflruclure raifed upon it appears top-heavy. 

From the fmgle principle of the exiftence of 
our own thoughts, very little, if any thing, 
can be deduced by juft reafoning, efpecially 
if we fuppofe that all our other faculties may 
be fallacious. 

Accordingly we find that Mr. Hume was not 
the firil that: was led into fcepticifm by the want 
of nrft principles. For foon after Des Cartes 
there arofe a feet in France called Egoijls^ whp 
maintained that we have no evidence of the 
exiftence of any thing but ourfeives. 

Whether thefe Egoifls, like Mr. Hume, be- 
lieved themfelves to be nothing but a train of 
ideas and impreffions, or to have a more per- 
manent exiftence, I have not learned, having 
never feen any of their writings ; nor do I 
know whether any of this fe£l: did write in fup- 
port of their principles. One would think, 
they who did not believe that there was any 
psrfonto read, could have little inducement to 
write, unlefs they were prompted by that in- 
ward monitor, which Persius makes to be the 
fource of genius and the teacher of arts. 
There can be no doubt, however, of the ex- 
iftence of fuch a fe£t, as they are mentioned 
by many Authors, and refuted by fome, par- 
tlcuhrly by Eui-fier, in his Treatife of firft 


OPINIONS about firji PRINCIPLES. 339 

Thofe Egoifts and Mr. Hume feem to me toC HA p. 
have reafoned more confequentlally from Des 
Cartes principle than he did himlelf ; and in- 
deed I cannot help thinking, that all who have 
foiloAved Des Cartes method, of requiring 
proof by argument of every thing except the 
exiilence of their own thoughts, have efcapcd 
the abyfs of fcepticifm by the help of weak 
reafoning and ftrong faith more than by any 
other means. And they feem to me to aft 
more confidently, who having rejected the firft 
principles on which belief mufl: be grounded, 
have no belief, than they, who, hke the 
others, rejefting firft principles, muft yet have 
a fyftem of belief, without any folid foundation 
on which it may ftand. 

The Philofophers I have hitherto mentioned, 
after the time of Des Cartes, have all follow- 
ed his method, in refting upon the truth of 
their own thoughts as a firft principle, but re- 
quiring arguments for the proof of every other 
truth of a contingent nature ; but none of 
them, excepting Mr. Locke, has exprefsly 
treated of firft principles, or given any opinion 
of their utility or inutility. We only collect 
their opinion from their following Des Cartes 
in requiring proof, or pretending to offer proof 
of the exiftence of a material world, which 
furely ought to be received as a firft principle, 
if any thing be, beyond what we are con- 
fcious of. 

I proceed, therefore, to confider what Mr. 
Locks has faid on the fubjeO: of firft principles 
or maxims. 

I have not the leaft doubt of this author's 

candour in what he fomewhere fays, that his 

effay was moftlyTpun out of his own thoughts. 

Z 2 Yet 

34^ ESSAY Vr. 

C HA P. Yet it is certain, that, in many of the notions 
^ ^^- which we are wont to [afcribe to him, others 
were before him, particularly, Des Cartes, 
GASshNDi, and Hobbes. Nor is it at all to 
be thought ftrange, that ingenious men, when 
they are got into the fame track, fliould hit 
upon the fame things. 

But, in the definition which he gives of 
knowledge in general, and in his notions con- 
cerning axioms or firfl principles, I know none 
that went before him, though he has been very 
generally followed in both. 

His definition of knowledge, that it confifls 
folely in rhe perception of the agreement or dif- 
agreement of our ideas, has been already con- 
fidered. But fuppofmg it to be jufl, flill it 
Vvould be true, that fome agreem»ents and dif- 
agreements of ideas mufl be immediately per- 
ceived ; and fuch agreements or difagreements, 
when they are exprelfed by affirmative or ne- 
gative propofitions, are firft principles, becaufe 
their truth is immediately difcerned* as foon as 
they are underflood. 

This I think is granted by Mr. Locke, book 
4. chap. 2. " There is a part of our know- 
" ledge, fays he, which we may call intuitive. 
" In this the mind is at no pains of proving or 
" examining, but perceives the truth as the 
** e)'e does light, only by being direfted to- 
*' ward it. And this kind of knowledge is the 
*' cleareft and moft certain that human frailty 
" is capable of. This part of knowledge is ir- 
" refiffible, and, like bright funfliine, forces 
*' itfelf immediately to be perceived, as foon 
*' as ever the mind turns its view thatw^ay." 


OPINIONS about firjl PRINCIPLES. 341 

He farther obferves, "That this intuitiveC H A P. 
" knowledge is neceffary to conne6t all the ^^^^• 
*' fteps of a demonftration.'* ' " ^ 

From this, I think, it neceflarily follows, 
that, in every branch of knowledge, we muui 
make ufe of truths that are intuitively knov/n, 
in order to deduce from them fuch as require 

But I cannot reconcile this with what he 
fays, fedl. 8. of the fame chapter. " The ne- 
*' ceflity of this intuitive knowledge in every 
*' ftep of fcientifical or demonftrative reafoning 
" gave occafion, I imagine, to that miftaken 
*' axiom, that all reafoning v/as ex pr(Zcognitis 
*' et pr/xconcejfis ^ which, how far it is miftaken, 
" I fhall have occafion to fliew more at laree, 
" when I come to confider proportions, and 
*' particularly thofe propofitions which are call- 
*' ed maxims, and to iliew, that it is by a raif- 
" take that they are fuppofed to be the foun- 
" dation of all our knowledge and reafonings." 

I have carefully confidered the chapter on 
maxims, which Mr. Locke, here refers to ; and 
though one would expect, from the quotation 
lafl: made, that it fhould run contrary to what I 
have before delivered concerning firft princi- 
ples, I find only two or three fentences in it, 
and thofe chiefly incidental, to which I do not 
affent ; and I am always happy in agreeing 
-with a Philofopher whom I fo highly refpeft. 

He .endeavours to (how, that axioms or in- 
tuitive truths are not innate. 

To this I agree. I maintain only, that when 
the underftanding is ripe, and when we dif- 
tinclly apprehend fuch truths, we immediately 
aifent to them. 


342 E S S A Y VI. 

CHAP, He obferves, that felf-evidence is not pecu- 
■ liar to thofe propofitions which pafs under the 
name of axioms, and have the dignity of axi- 
oms afcribed to them. 

I grant that there are innumerable felf-tvident 
proportions, which have neither dignity nor 
utilitv, and therefore deferve not the name of 
axioms, as that name is commonly underftood 
to imply not only felf-evidence, but fome de- 
gree of dignity or utiHty. That a man is a 
man, and that a man is not a horfe, are felf- 
evident propofitions ; but they are, as Mr. 
Locke veryjuftly calls them, trifling propofiti- 
ons. TiLLOTsoN very wittily fays of fuch pro- 
pofitions, that they are fo furfeited with truth, 
that they are good for nothing ; and as they 
deferve not the name of axioms, fo neither do 
they deferve the name of knowledge. 

He obferves, that fuch trifling felf-evident 
propofitions as we have named are not derived 
from axioms, and therefore that ail our know- 
ledge is not derived from axioms. 

1 grant that they are not derived from axi- 
oms, becaufe they are themfelves felf-evident. 
But it is an abufe of words to call them know- 
ledge, as it is, to call them axioms; for no man 
can be faid to be the wifer or more knowing 
for having millions of them in florc. 

lie obferves, that the particular propofitions 
contained under a general axiom are no lefs 
felf-evident than the general axiom, and that 
they are fooner known and underftood. Thus 
it is as evident, that my hand is lefs than my 
body, as that a part is lefs than the whole ; and 
I know the truth of the particular propoution, 
iooner than that of the general. 


OPINIONS about firjl PRINCIPLES. 343 

This is true. A man cannot perceive tlie^ ^^ '*• 
truth of a general axiom, fuch as, that a part 
is lefs than the whole, until he has the general 
notions of a part and a whole formed in his 
mind ; and before he has thefe general notions, 
he may perceive that his hand is lefs than his 

A great part of this chapter on maxims is 
levelled againfl a notion, which, it feems, fome 
have entertained, that all our knowledge is de- 
rived from thefe two maxims, to wit, whate- 
ver is, is ; and it is impoffible for the fame 
thing to be, and not to be. 

This I take to be a ridiculous notion, juftly 
deferving the treatment which Mr. Locke has 
given it, if it at all merited his notice. Tiiefe 
are identical propofitions ; they are trilling, 
and furfeited with truth : No knowledge can 
be derived from them. 

Having mentioned how far I agree v^^ith Mr. 
Locke concerning maxims or fird principles,, 
I fhall next take notice of tvv^o or three things, 
wherein I cannot agree with him. 

In the feventh fe6tion of this chapter, he fays, 
That concerning the real exigence of all other 
beings, belides ourfelves, and a firfl caufe, 
there are no maxims. 

I have endeavoured to iliov/ that there are 
maxims or firft principles with regard to other 
cxiftences. Mr. Locke acknowledges that we 
have a knowledge of fuch exiftences, which, 
he fays, is neither intuitive nor demonilrative, 
and which therefore he calls fenfitive know- 
ledge« It is demonftrable, and was long ago 
demonftrated by Aristotle, that every pro- 
pofition to which we give a rational affent, mufl 
either have its evidence in itfelf, or derive it 


344 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP, from fome antecedent propofition. And the 
^^^- fame thing ma)'- be faid of the antecedent pro- 
^'pofition. As therefore we cannot go back to 
antecedent proportions without end, the evi- 
dence muft at lafl reft upon propofitions, one 
or more, which have their evidence in them- 
felves, that is, upon firft principles. 

As to the evidence of our own exiftence, 
and of the exiftence of a firft caufe, Mr. Locke 
does not fay whether it refts upon firft princi- 
ples or not. But it is manifeft, from what he 
has faid upon both, that it does. 

With regard to our own exiftence, fays he, 
■we perceive it fo plainly, and fo certainly, that 
it neither needs nor is capable of any proof. 
This is as much as to fay, that our own exift- 
ence is a firft principle ; for it is applying to this 
truth the very definition of a firft principle. 

He adds, that if I doubt, that very doubt 
makes me perceive my own exiftence, and will 
not fufFer me to doubt of that. If I feel pain, 
I have as certain perception of my exiftence as 
of the pain I feel. 

Here we have tikvo firft principles plainly im- 
plied : Firj}^ That my feeHng pain, or being 
confcious of pain, is a certain evidence of the 
real exiftence of that pain. And, fecondly., 
That pain cannot exift without a mind, or be- 
ing that is pained. That thefe are firft princi- 
ples, and incapable of proof, Mr. Locke ac- 
knowledges. And it Is certain, that if they 
are not true, we can have no evidence of our 
ov/n exiftence. For if we may feel pain when 
no pain really exifts, or if pain may exift with- 
out any being that is pained, then it is certain 
that our feeUng pain can give us no evidence 
of our exiftence. 


OPINIONS about firjl PRINCIPLES. 345 

Thus it appears, that the evidence of ourC HAP. 
own exiftence, according to the view that Mr. 
Locke gives of it, is grounded upon two of ^ ' 
thofe firft principles which we had occafion to 

If we confider the argument he has given for 
the exiftence of a firft intelUgent caufe, it is no 
lefs evident that it is grounded upon other tv/o 
of them. The firft, That what begins to exift 
muft have a caufe of its exiftence ; and the fe- 
cond, That an unintelligent and unthinking 
being, cannot be the caufe of beings that are 
thinking and intelligent. LIpon thefe two prin- 
ciples, he argues very convincingly for the ex- 
iftence of a firft intelligent caufe of things. 
And, if thefe principles are not true, we can 
have no proof of the exiftence of a firft caufe, 
either from our own exiftence, or from the ex- 
iftence of other things that fall within our view. 

Another thing advanced by Mr. Locke 
upon this fubjed:, is, that no fcience is, or 
hath been built upon maxims. 

Surely Mr. Locke was not ignorant of geo- 
metry, which hath been built upon maxims 
prefixed to the elements, as far back as we are 
able to trace it. But though they had not been 
prefixed, which was a matter of utility rather 
than neceftity, yet it muft be granted, that 
every demonftration in geometry is grounded, 
cither upon propofitions formerly demonftrated, 
or upon felf-evident principles. 

Mr. Locke farther fays, that maxims are 
not of ufe to help men forward in the advance- 
ment of the fciences, or new difcoveries of yet 
unknown truths : That Newton, in the dif- 
coveries he has made in his never enough to 
be admired book, has not been aflifted by the 



C H A P. general maxims, whatever is, is ; or the whole 
. ;^^s greater than a part, or the like. 

I anlwer, the firft of thefe is, as was before 
obferved, an identical trifling proportion, of 
no ufe in mathematics, or in any other fcience. 
The fecond is often ufed by Newton, and by 
all Mathematicians, and many demonftrations 
reft upon it. In general, Newton, as well as 
all other Mathematicians, grounds his demon- 
ftrations of mathematical propofitions upon the 
axioms laid down by Euclid, or upon propo- 
fitions which have been before demonftrated 
by help of thofe axioms. 

But it deferves to be particularly obferved, 
that Nbwton, intending in the third book of his 
Principia, to give a more fcientific form to the 
phyfical part of aftronomy, which he had at firft 
compofed in a popular form, thought proper to 
follow the example of Euclid, and to lay 
down firft, in what he calls, Regida; Philofo- 
phandi^ and in his Phanomena^ the firft princi- 
ples which he aflumes in his reafonlng. 

Nothing, therefore, could have been more 
unluckily adduced by Mr. Locke to fupport 
his averfion to firft principles, than the exam- 
ple of Sir Isaac Nevxton, who, by laying 
down the firft principles upon which he reafons 
in thofe parts of natural philofophy which he 
cultivated, has given a ftability to that fcience 
which it never had before, and which it will 
retain to the end of the world. 

I am now to give fome account of a Philo- 
fopher, who wrote exprefsly on the fubject of 
firft principles, after Mr. Locke. 

Pere Buffier, a French Jefuit, firft pub- 
liftied his Traite des proniers Veritez, et dc la 
foiirce de nosjugementSj in 8vo, if I miftakc not, 


OPINIONS about firjl PRINCIPLES. 347 

\\\ the year 1 724. It was afterwards publifned CHAP, 
in folio, as a part of his Coirrs des ftknccs. ^' • 
Paris, iyT^2. 

He defines firfl principles to be propofitions 
fo clear, that they can neither be proved, nor 
combated by thofe that are more clear. 

The firfl fource of firfi principle? he men- 
tions, is, that intimate conviftion which every 
man has of his own exiftence, and of what 
paifes in his own mind. Some Philofophers, 
he obferves, admitted thefe as firfl; principles, 
who were unwilling to admit any others ; and 
he ihows the ftrange confequences that follow 
from this fyflem. 

A fecond fource of firfi: principles he makes 
to be common fenfe ; which, he obferves, 
Philofophers have not been wont to confider. 
He defines it to be, the difpofition which Na- 
ture has planted in all men, or the far greater 
part, which leads them, when they come to 
the ufe of reafon, to form a common and uni- 
form judgment upon obje£ts which are not 
objcfts of confcioufnefs, nor are founded on 
any antecedent judgment. 

He mentions, not as a full enumeration, 
but as a fpecimen, the following principles of 
common fenfe. 

1. That there are other beings, and other 
men in the univerfe, befides myfelf. 

2. That there is in them fomething that is 
called truth, wifdom, prudence, and that thefe 
things are not purely arbitrary. 

3. That there is fomething in me which I 
call intelligence, and fomething which is not 
that intelligence, which I call my body, and 
that thefe things have different properties. 

4. That 

348 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP. ^. That all men are not in a confplracy to 
): deceive me and impofe upon my credulity. 

5. That what has not intelligence cannot 
produce the effeds of intelligence, nor can 
pieces of matter thrown together by chance 
form any regular work, fuch as a clock or 

He explains very particularly the feveral 
parts of his definition of common fenfe, and 
ihews how the dictates of common fenfe may 
be diftinguifhed from common prejudices ; 
and then enters into a particular confideration 
of the primary truths that concern being in ge- 
neral ; the truths that concern thinking beings ; 
thofe that concern body ; and thofe on which 
the various branches of human knowledge are 

I fhall not enter into a detail of his fenti- 
ments on thefe fubjedis. I think there is more 
which I take to be original in this treatife, 
than in moft books of the metaphyfical kind I 
have met with ; that many of his notions are 
folid ; and that others, which I cannot altoge- 
ther approve, are ingenious. 

The other writers I have mentioned, after 
Des Cartes, may, I think, without impro- 
priety, be called Cartefians : For though they 
differ from Des Cartes in fome things, and 
contradict him in others, yet they fet out from 
the fame principles, and follow the fame me- 
thod, admitting no other firft principle with 
regard to the exiflence of things but their own 
exiilence, and the exiflence of thofe operati- 
ons of mind of which they are confcious, and re- 
quiring that the exiftence of a material world, 
and the exiflence of other men and things, 
fhould be proved by argument. 


OPINIONS about firji PRINCIPLES. 349 

This method of philofophifmg is common to C H A P. 
Des Cartes, Malebranche, Arnauld, ^^^• 
Locke, Norris, Collier, Berkeley, and 
Hume ; and, as it was introduced by Des 
Cartes, I call it the Cartefian fyftem, and 
thofe who follow it Cartefians, not intending 
any difrefpeft by this term, but to fignify a 
particular method of philofophifmg common to 
them all, and begun by Des Cartes. 

Some of thefe have gone the utmofl length 
in fcepticifm, leaving no exiftence in Nature 
but that of ideas and imprelTions. Some have 
endeavoured to throw off the belief of a mate- 
rial world only, and to leave us ideas and fpi- 
rits. All of them have fallen into very grofs 
paradoxes, which can never fit eafy upon the 
human underftanding, and which, though 
adopted in the clofet, men find themfelves un- 
der a neceflity of throwing off and difclaiming 
when they enter into fociety. 

Indeed, in my judgment, thofe who have 
reafoned mod acutely and confequentially up- 
on this fyftem, are they that have gone decpeft 
into fcepticifm. 

Father Buffier, however, is no Cartefian 
in this fenfe. He feems to have perceived the 
defeats of the Cartefian fyftem while it was in 
the meridian of its glory, and to have been 
aware that a ridiculous fcepticifm is the natu- 
ral iffue of it, and therefore nobly attempted to 
lay a broader foundation for human knowledge, 
and has the honour of being the firft, as far as 
I know, after Aristotle, who has given the 
world a juft treatife upon firft principles. 

Some late writers, particularly Dr. Oswald, 
Dr. Beattie, and Dr. Campbell, have been 
led into a way of thinking fpmewhat fimilar to 




CHAP, that of BuFFiER ; the two former, as I have 

V IT • • • 

* reafon to believe, without any mtercourfe 
wfrh one another, or any knowledge of what 
BuFFiER had wrote on the fubjeft. Indeed, 
a man who thinks, and who is acquainted 
with the philofophy of Mr. Hume, will very 
naturally be led to apprehend, that, to fupport 
the fabric of human knowledge, fome other 
principles are neceffary thanthofe of Des Car- 
tes and Mr. Locke. Buffier muft be ac- 
knowledged to have the merit of having dif- 
covered this, before the confequences of the 
Cartefian fyftem were fo fully difplayed as they 
have been by Mr. Hume. But I am apt to 
think, that the man who docs not fee this 
now^, nmll: have but a fuperficial knowledge of 
thefe fubjefts. 

The three writers above mentioned have my 
high efleem and affection as men ; but I in- 
tend to fay nothing of them as writers upon 
this fubjedt, that I may not incur the cenfure 
of partiality. Two of them have been joined 
fo clofely with me in the animadverfions of a 
celebrated writer, that we may be thought too 
near of kin to give our teflimony of one ano- 


Of PREJUDICES, the Caufes of ERROR. 35* 



Of Prejudices, the Caufes of Error. 

OU R intelleftual powers are wifely fitted 
by the Author of our nature for the dif- 
covery of truth, as far as fuits oUr prefent 
ftate. Error is not their natural iflue, any 
more than difeafe is of the natural ftru6lure of 
the body. Yet, as we are liable to various 
difeafes of body from accidental caufes, exter- 
nal and internal ; fo we are, from like caufes, 
liable to wrong judgments. 

Medical writers have endeavoured to enu- 
merate the difeafes of the body, and to reduce 
them to a fyftem, under the name of nofology; 
and it were to be wifhed that we had alfo a 
nofology of the human underftanding. 

When we know a diforder of the body, we 
are often at a lofs to find the proper remedy ; 
but in mofl cafes the diforders of the under- 
ftanding point out their remedies fo plainly, 
that he who knows the one muft know the 

Many authors have furnifhed ufeful materi- 
als for this purpofe, and fome have endeavour- 
ed to reduce them to a fyflem. I like befl the 
general divifion given of them by Lord Bacon 
in his fifth book De augmentis fcientiarum, and 
more fully treated in his Novwn Organum. 
He divides them into four claifes, idola tribus^ 
idola fpccus, idola fori., and idola theairi. The 
names are perhaps fanciful ; but I think the 
divifion judicious, like mod of the produ6li- 
ons of that wonderful genius. And as this di- 
vifion was firft made by him, he may be in- 


CHAP, dalged the privilege of giving names to its fe* 
viii. ygj-^^j ni embers. 

I propofe in this chapter to explain the feve- 
ral members of this divifion, according to the 
meaning of the author, and to give inftances 
of each, without confining myfelf to thofe 
which Lord "Bacon has given, and without 
pretending to complete enumeration. 

To every bias of the underflanding, by 
which a man may be milled in judging, or 
drawn into error, Lord Bacon gives the name 
of an idol. The underftanding, in its natural 
and bed flate, pays its homage to truth only. 
The caufes of error are confidered by him as 
fo many falfe deities, who receive the homage 
which is due only to truth. 

The firft clafs are the idola tribus. Thefe are 
fuch as befet the whole human fpecies ; fo that 
every man is in danger from them. They arife 
from principles of the human conftitution, 
which are highly ufeful and necelfary in our 
prefent flate ; but, by their excefs or defect, 
or wrong diredion, may lead us into error. 

As the a£live principles of the human frame 
are wifely contrived by the Author of our be- 
ing for the diredion of our actions, and yet, 
without proper regulation and reflraint, are 
apt to lead us wrong ; fo it is alfo with regard 
to thofe parts of our conftitution that have in- 
fluence upon our opinions. Of this we may 
take the following inftances: 

I. FirJ}^ Men are prone to be led too much 
by authority in their opinions. 

In the firft part of life we have no other 
guide; and without a difpofition to receive im- 
plicitly what we are taught, we fhould be in- 

Of PREJUDICES, the Caufes of ERROR. o^^^ 
capable of inftruclion, and incapable of im-CHAP, 


provement. ^ ^^^• 

When judgment is ripe, there are many- 
things in which we are incompetent judges. 
In fuch matters, it is mod reafonable to rely 
upon the judgment of thofe whom we believe 
to be competent and difinterefled. The highefl 
court of judicature in the nation relies upon 
the authority of lawyers and phyficians in mat- 
ters belonging to their refpedive profeffions. 

Even in matters which we have accefs to 
know, authority always will have, and ought 
to have more or lefs weight, in proportion to 
the evidence on which our own judgment refts, 
and the opinion we have of the judgment and 
candour of thofe who differ from us, or agree 
with us. The modeft man, confcious of his 
own faUibility in judging, is in danger of giv- 
ing too much to authority; the arrogant of giv- 
ing too little. 

In all matters belonging to our cognifance, 
every man muft be determined by his own final 
judgment, otherwife he does not ad the part 
of a rational being. Authority may add weight 
to one fcale; but the man holds the balance, 
and judges what weight he ought to allow to 

If a man fhould even claim infallibility, we 
muft judge of his title to that prerogative. If 
a man pretend to be an Ambaffador from hea- 
ven, we muft judge of his credentials. No 
claim can deprive us of this right, or excufe 
us for negledling to exercifc it. 

As therefore our regard to authority may be 
either too great or too fmall, the bias of humian 
nature feems to lean to the firft of thefe ex- 

VoL. II. A a tremesj 

554 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP, tremes; and I believe it is good for men iii- 
\^III. general that it fhould do fo. 

When this bias concurs with an indifference 
about truth, its operation will be the more 

The love of truth is natural to man, and 
flrong in every well-difpofed mind. But it 
may be overborn by party-zeal, by vanity, by 
the defu'e of viclory, or even by lazinefs. 
"Wheh it is fuperior to thefe, it is a manly vir- 
tue, and requires the exercife of induftry, for- 
titude, felf-denial, candour, and opennefs to 

As there are perfons in the world of fo mean 
and abject a fpirit, that they rather chufe to 
owe their fubfiftence to the charity of others, 
than by induftry to acquire fome property of 
their own; fo there are many more who may 
be called mere beggars with regard to their 
opinions. Through lazincfs and indifference 
about truth, they leave to others the drudgery 
of digging for this commodity ; they can have 
enough at fecond hand to ferve their occafions. 
Their concern is not to know what is true, 
but what is faid and thought onfuch fubjefts; 
and their underftanding, like their cloathsy 
is cut according to the fafliion. 

This diftemper of the underffanding has 
taken fo deep root in a great part of mankind, 
that it can hardly be faid that they ufe their 
own judgment in things that do not concern 
their tem.poral interelf ; nor is it peculiar to 
the ignorant; it infe6ls all ranks. We may 
guefs their opinions when we know where they 
were born, of v/hat parents, how educated, 
and what company they have kept. Thefe cir- 
cumflances determine their opinions in religi- 
on, in Dolitics, and in philofophv. 

2. A 

Of PREJUDICES, the Catifcs of ERROR. 355 

1. A fecond general prejudice arifes from aC H A P. 
dlfpofition to meafure things lefs known, and ^^ 
lefs familiar, by thofe that are better known 
and more familiar. 

This is the foundation of analogical reafon- 
Ing, to which we have a great pronenefs by 
nature, and to it indeed we owe a great part 
of our knowledge. It would be abfurd to lay 
afide this kind of reafoning altogether, and it 
is difficult to judge how far we may venture 
upon it. The bias of human nature is to judge 
from too flight analogies. 

The objefts of fenfe engrofs our thoughts 
in the firft part of life, and are mod familiar 
through the whole of it. Hence in all ages 
men have been prone to attribute the human 
figure and human paffions and frailties- to fupe- 
rior intelligences, and even to the Supreme 

There is a difpofition iji men to materialize 
every thing, if I may be allowed the expreffion ; 
that is, to apply the notions we have of mate- 
rial objeds to things of another nature. 
Thought is confidered as analogous to motion 
in a body; and as bodies are put in motion by 
impulfes, and by impreffions made upon them 
by contiguous objefts, we are apt to conclude 
that the mind is made to think by impreffions 
made upon it, and that there muft be fome 
kind of contiguity between it and the obje6ts 
of thought. Hence the theories of ideas and 
impreffions have fo generally prevailed. 

Becaufe the moft perfect works of human 
artiits are made after a model, and of mate- 
rials that before exifted, the ancient Philofo- 
phers univerfally believed that the world was 
made of a pre-exiftent uncreated matter ; and 
A a 2 many 

356 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP, many of them, that there were eternal and un- 
^ • created models of every fpecies of things which 
God made. 

The miftakes in common life, which are 
owing to this prejudice, are innumerable, and 
cannot efcape the fiighteft obfervation. Men 
judge of other men by themfelves, or by the 
fmail circle of their acquaintance. The felfifh 
man thinks all pretences to benevolence and 
public fpirit to be mere hypocrify or felf-deceit. 
The generous and open hearted believe fair 
pretences too eafily, and are apt to think men 
better than they really are. The abandoned and 
proiiigate can hardly be perfuaded that there 
is any fuch thing as real virtue in the world. 
The ruftic forms his notions of the manners 
and characters of men from thofe of his coun- 
try village, and is eafily duped when he comes 
into a great city. 

It is commonly taken for granted, that this 
narrow way of judging of men is to be cured 
only by an extenfive intercourfe with men of 
dilTerent ranks, profeiTions, and nations; and 
that the man whofe acquaintance has been con- 
fined within a narrow circle, muft have many 
prejudices and narrow notions, which a more 
extenfive intercoufe would have cured. 

3. Men are often led into error by the love 

, of fimplicity, which difpofes us to reduce 

tilings to few principles, and to conceive a 

greater fimplicity in nature than- there really 


To love fimplicity, and to be pleafed with it 
wherever we find it, is no imperfeftion, but 
the contrary. It is" the refult of good tafte*. 
We cannot but be pleafed to obferve, that all 
the changes of motion produced by the colli- 


Of PREJUDICES, the Caufcs r/ERROR. -^^y 

fion of bodies, hard, foft, or elaflic, are re-C H A P. 
ducible to three fimple laws of motion, which "^1^^- 
the induftry of Philofophers has difcovered. *^ "^ 

When we confider what a prodigious variety 
of efFefts depend upon the law of gravitation ; 
how many phsenomena in the earth, fea, and 
air, which, in all preceding ages, had tortur- 
ed the wits of Philofophers, and occafioned a 
thoufand vain theories, are fliown to be the 
neceffary confequences of this one law ; how 
the whole fyftem of fun, moon, planets, pri- 
mary and fecondary, and comets, are kept in 
order by it, and their feeming irregularities 
accounted for and reduced to accurate mea- 
fure ; the fimplicity of the caufe, and the 
beauty and variety of the efFed:s, mufl give 
pleafure to every contemplative mind. By this 
noble difcovery, we are taken, as it were, be- 
hind the fcene in this great drama of Nature, 
and made to behold fome part of the art of the 
divine Author of this fyllem, which, before 
this difcovery, eye had not feen, nor ear heard, 
nor had it entered into the heart of man to 

There is, without doubt, in every work of 
Nature all the beautiful fimplicity that is con- 
fiflent with the end for which it was made. 
But if we hope to difcover how Nature brings 
about its ends, merely from this principle, that 
it operates in the hmpleft and bed way, we 
deceive ourfelves, and forget that the wifdoni 
of Nature is more above the wifdom of man, 
than man's wifdom is above that of a child. 

If a child fhould fit down to contrive how a 
city is to be fortified, or an army arranged in 
the day of battle, he would, no doubt, con- 
jecture what, to his underflanding, appeared 


358 ESSAY VI. 

C H A P. the fimpleft and beft way. But could he ever 

^^__J5Jj hit upon the true way ? No furely. When he 

learns from fa£l how thefe effecls are produced, 

he will then fee how fooHfh his childilh con- 

jeftures were. 

We may learn fomething of the way in which 
Nature operates, from faft and obfervatipn ; 
but if we conclude that it operates in fuch a 
manner, only becaufe to our underftanding, 
that appears to be the beft and fimpleft manner, 
we fliall always go wrong. 

It was believed, for many ages, that all the 
variety of concrete bodies we find on this globe 
is reducible to four elements, of which they 
are compounded, and into which they may be 
refolved. It was the fimplicity of this theory, 
and not any evidence from fact, that made it 
to be fo generally received ; for the more it is 
examined, we find the lefs ground to believe 

The Pythagoreans and Platonifts were car- 
ried farther by the fame love of fimplicity. 
Pythagoras, by his (kill in mathematics, dif- 
covered, that there can be no more than five 
regular folid figures, terminated by plain fur- 
faces, which are all fimilar and equal ; to wit, 
the tetrahedron, the cube, the octahedron, the 
dodecahedron, and the eicofihedron. As Na- 
ture works in the moft fimple and regular way, 
he thought that all the elementary bodies muft 
have one or other of thofe regular figures ; 
and that the difcovery of the properties and 
relations of the regular folids would be a key 
to open the myfteries of Nature. 

This notion of the Pythagoreans and Plato- 
nifts has undoubtedly great beauty and fim- 
plicity. Accordingly it prevailed, at leaft, to 


0/PREJUDICES, the Caufes of ERROR. 359 

the time of Euclid. He was a Platonic Phi-C HAP. 
•lofopher, and is faid to have wrote all the ^^^^" 
books of his Elements, in order to difcover the' 
properties and relations of the five regular fo- 
lids. This ancient tradition of the intention 
of Euclid in writing his Elements, is coun- 
tenanced by the work itfelf. For the laft books 
of the Elements treat of the regular foiids, and 
all the preceding are fubfervient to the laft. 

So that this moft ancient mathematical 
-work, which, for its admirable compofition, 
has ferved as a model to all fucceeding writers 
in mathematics, feem.s, like the firft two books 
of Newton's Principia, to have been intended 
by its author to exhibit the mathematical prin- 
ciples of natural philofophy. 

It was long believed, that all the qualities 
of bodies, and all their medical virtues, were 
reducible to four ; moifture and dryneis, heat 
and cold : And that there are only four tem- 
peraments of the human body ; the fanguine, 
the melancholy, the bilious, and the phlegm 
matic. The chemical fyftem, of reducing all 
"bodies to fait, fulphur, and mercury, vi^as of 
the fame kind. For how many ages did men 
•believe, that the divifion of all the objeds of 
thought into ten categories, and of all that 
can be affirmed or denied of any thing, into 
five univerfals or predicables, were perfect 
enumerations ? 

The evidence from reafon that could be 
produced for thofe fyftems was next to no- 
thing, and bore no proportion to the ground 
they gained in the belief of men ; but they 
were fimple and regular, and reduced things 
to a few principles j and this fupplied their 
want of evidence. 


36o ESSAY VI. 

CHAP. Of all the fyftems we know, that of Des 
^^^^' Cartes was moft remarkable for its fimplici- 

^^'^''^^ ty. Upon one propofition, I think, he builds 
the whole fabric of human knowledge. And 
from mere matter, with a certain quantity ot 
motion given it at hrft, he accounts for all the 
ph^enomena of the material world. 

The phyfical part of this fyftem was mere 
hypothefis. It had nothing to recommend it 
but its hmplicity ; yet it had force enough to 
overturn the fyflem of Aristotle, after that 
fyfhem had prevailed for more than a thoufand 

The principle of gravitation, and other at- 
tracting and repelling forces, after Sir Isaac 
Newton had given the ftrongefl evidence of 
their real exiftence in Nature, were rejeded 
by the greateft part of Europe for half a cen- 
tury, becaufe they could not be accounted for 
by matter and motion. So much were men 
enamoured with the hmpHcity of the Cartefian 

Nay, 1 apprehend, it was this love of fim- 
plicity, more than real evidence, that led 
Newton himfelf to fay, in the preface to his 
Principia, fpeaking of the phfenomena of the 
material world, " Nam multa me movent ut 
*' nonnihii fufpicer, ea omnia ex viribus qui- 
" bufdam pendere poife, quibus corporuni 
" particute, per caufas nondum cognitas, vel 
" in fe mutuo impelluntur, et fecundum figu- 
** rns regulares cohasrent, vel ab invicem fu- 
" gantur et recedunt." For certainly we have 
no evidence from faft, that all the phtenome- 
na of the material world are produced by at- 
tracting or repelling forces. 


0/PREJUDICES, the Caufes of ERROR. 361 

With his ufual modefly, he propofes it only C H A P. 
as a flight fufpicion ; and the ground of this . [i^ 
fafpicion could only be, that he faw that many 
of the phjcnomena of Nature depended upon 
caufes of this kind : and therefore was difpo- 
fed, from the limplicity of Nature, to think 
that all do. 

When a real caufe is difcovered, the fame 
love of limplicity leads men to attribute efteds 
to it which are beyond its province. 

A medicine that is found to be of jrreat ufe 
in one diftemper, commonly has its virtues 
multiplied, till it becomes a panacea. 1 hofe 
who have lived long, can recoliecl many in- 
(lances of this. In other branches of know- 
ledge, the fame thing often happens. V\^hen 
the attention of men is turned to any particu- 
lar caufe, by difcovering it to have remarkable 
effedts, they are in great danger of extending 
its influence, upon flight evidence, to things 
with which it has no connection. Such pre- 
judices arife from the natural defire of fim- 
plifying natural caufes, and of accounting for 
many phsenomena from the fame principie. 

4. One of the moll copious fources oi error 
in philofophy is the mifapplication of our no- 
blell intellectual power to purpoies for which 
it is incompetent. 

Of all the intellectual powers of man, that 
of invention bears the higheii price. It re- 
fembles mofl the power of creation, and is ho- 
noured with that name. 

We admire the man who fliews a fuperiority 
in the talent of finding the means of accom- 
plifning an end ; who can, by a happy com- 
bination, produce an effect, or make a difco- 
very beyond the reach of other men j who can 


362 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP, draw Important conclufions from circumftan- 
• ces that commonly pafs unobferved ; who 
judges with the greateft fagacity of the defigns 
of other men, and the confequences of his own 
adions. To this fuperiority of underflanding 
we give the name of genius, and look up with 
admiration to every thing that bears the marks 
of it. 

Yet this power, fo highly valuable in itfelf, 
and fo ufeful in the conduct of life, may be 
mifapplied ; and men of genius, in all ages, 
have been prone to apply it to purpofes for 
which it is altogether incompetent. 

The works of men and the works of Nature 
are not of the fame order. The force of geni- 
us may enable a man perfeftly to comprehend 
the former, and to fee them to the bottom. 
What is contrived and executed by one man 
may be perfe6tly underftood by another man. 
With great probability, he may from a part 
conjefture the whole, or from the effedU may 
conjecture the caufes ; becaufe they are effects 
of a wifdom not fuperior to his own. 

But the works of Nature are contrived and 
executed by a wifdom and power infinitely fu- 
perior to that of man ; and when men attempt, 
by the force of genius, to difcover the caufes 
of the phsenomena of Nature, they have only 
the chance of going wrong more ingenioufly. 
Their conjectures may appear very probable to 
beings no wifer than themfelves ; but they have 
no chance to hit the truth- They are like the 
conjectures of a child how a fhip of war is built, 
and how it is managed at fea. 

Let the man of genius try to make an ani- 
mal, even the meanefl ; to make a plant, 
or even a fmgle leaf of a plant, or feather 
of a bird 5 he will find that all his wif- 


0/PREJUDICES, the Caufes of ERROR. -^fil 

dom and fagacity can bear no comparifon with^ ^^.^ ^* 
the wifdom of Nature, nor his power with the ^^^^\^ 
power of Nature. 

The experience of all ages {hows how prone 
ingenious men have been to invent hypothefes 
to explain the phacnomena of Nature ; how 
fond, by a kind of anticipation, to difcover 
her fecrets. Inftead of a flow and gradual af- 
cent in the fcale of natural caufes, by a juft 
and copious induction, they would fhorten the 
work, and, by a flight of genius, get to the 
top at once. This gratifies the pride of hu- 
man underflanding ; but it is an attempt be- 
yond our force, like that of Phaeton to guide 
the chariot of the fun. 

When a man has. laid out all his ingenuity 
in fabricating a fyftem, he views it with the 
eye of a parent ; he flrains phasnomena to 
make them tally with it, and make it look 
like the work of Nature. 

The flow and patient method of induftion, 
the only way to attain any knowledge of Na- 
ture's work, was little underflood until it was 
delineated by Lord Bacon, and has been lit- 
tle follov/ed fmce. It humbles the pride of 
man, and puts him conftantly in mind that his 
molt ingenious conjeftures with regard to the 
works of God are pitiful and childilh. 

There is no room here for the favourite ta- 
lent of invention. In the humble method of 
information, from the great volume of Nature 
we muft receive all our knowledge of Nature. 
"Whatever is beyond a juft interpretation of 
that volume is the work of man ; and the 
work of God ought not to be contaminated by 
any mixture with it. 


364 ESSAY VI. 

CHAP. To a man of eenlus, felf-denial is a difficult 
^^___V leffon in philofophy as well as in religion. To 
bring his fine imaginations and mod ingeni- 
ous conjectures to the fiery trial of experiment 
and induction, by which the greater part, if 
not the whole, will be found to be drofs, is a 
humiliating tafk. This is to condemn him to 
dig in a mine, when he would fly with the 
wings of an eagle. 

In all the fine arts, whofe end is to pleafe, 
genius is defervedly fupreme. In the condud: 
of human affairs it often does wonders ; but 
in all enquiries into the conilitution of Nature 
it mufl aft a fubordinate part, ill-fuited to the 
fuperiority it boafls. It may combine, but it 
mud not fabricate. It may collect evidence, 
but muft not fupply the want of it by conjec- 
ture. It may difplay its powers by putting 
Nature to the queftion in well-contrived expe- 
riments, but it muft add nothing to her an- 

5. In avoiding one extreme, men are very 
apt to rufh into the oppofite. 
. Thus, in rude ages, men, unaccuflomed 
to fearch for natural caufes, afcribe every un- 
common appearance to the immediate interpo- 
fition of invifible beings ; but when philofo- 
phy has difcovered natural caufes of many 
events, which, in the days of ignorance, were 
afcribed to the immediate operation of gods or 
daemons, they are apt to think, that all the 
phsenomena of Nature may be accounted for 
in the fame way, and that there is no need of 
an invifible Maker and Governor of the world. 

Rude men are at firft difpofed to afcribe in- 
telligence and active power to every thing they 
fee move or undergo any change. " Savages, 

" fays 

0/PREJUDICES, the Caufes of ERROR. z^S 

" fays the Abbe Raynal, wherever they fee^H A P, 
*' motion which they cannot account for, there ' 

" they fuppofe a foul." When they come to 
be convinced of the folly of this extreme, they 
are apt to run into the oppofite, and to think 
that every thing moves only as it is moved, 
and a(9:s as it is aded upon. 

Thus, from the extreme of fuperftition, the 
trahfition is eafy to that of atheifm ; and from 
the extreme of afcribing activity to every part 
of Nature, to that of excluding it altogether, 
and making even the determinations of intelli- 
gent beings, the links of one fatal chain, or 
the wheels of one great machine. 

The abufe of occult qualities in the Peripa- 
tetic philofophy led Des Cartes and his fol- 
lowers to rejed all occult qualities ; to pretend 
to explain all the phaenomena of Nature by 
mere matter and motion, and even to fix dif- 
grace upon the name of occult quality. 

6. Mens judgments are often perverted by 
their affeclions and paflions. This is fo com- 
monly obferved, and fo univerfally acknow- 
ledged, that it needs no proof nor illuftration. 

The fecond clafs of idols in Lord Bacon's 
divifion are the idola fpecus. 

Thefe are prejudices which have their ori- 
gin, not from the conflitution of human na- 
ture, but from fomething peculiar to the indi- 

As in a cave objeds vary in their appear- 
ance according to the form of the cave and the 
maimer in which , it receives the Hght, Lord 
Bacon conceives the mind of every man to 
refemble a cave, which has its particular form, 
and its particular manner of being enlightened ; 
and, from thefe circumftances, often gives 





C fi /> r. ialfe colours and a delufive appearance to ob- 
_ • jeers ken m it. 

For this reafon, he gives the name of idola 
fpcciis to thofe prejudices which arife from the 
particular way in which a man has been train- 
ed, from his being addicted to fome particular 
profeffion, or from fomething particular in the 
turn of his mind. 

A man whofe thoughts have been confined 
to a certain track by his profeffion or manner 
of life, is very apt to judge wrong when he 
ventures out of that track. He is apt to draw 
every thing within the fphere of his profeffion, 
and to judge by its maxims of things that have 
no relation to it. 

The mere Mathematician is apt to apply 
meafure and calculation to things which do not 
admit of it. DireQ: and inverfe ratios have 
been applied by an ingenious author to meafure 
human afleftions, and the moral worth of 
anions. An eminent Mathematician attem.pted 
lo afcertain by calculation, the ratio in which 
the evidence of facts muft decreafe in the courfe 
of time, and fixed the period when the evi- 
dence of the facts on which Chriftianity is 
founded fhall become evanefcent, and when in 
confequence no faith fliall be found on the 
earth. I have feen a philofophical diffi^rtation 
publifhed by a very good Mathematician, 
wherein, in oppofition to the ancient divifion 
of things into ten categories, he maintains that 
there are no more, and can be no more than 
tvv'o categories, to wit, data and qiiafita. 

The ancient Chemifts were wont to explain 
all the myfteries of Nature, and even of religi- 
on, by fait, fulphur, and mercury. 


Of PREJUDICES, the Caufes of ERROR. 367 

Mr. Locke, I think, mentions an eminent C HAP. 
Mufician, who believed that God created the ^'^^^' 
world in fix days, and refted the fevcnth, be- *— ""V"^ 
caufe there are but feven notes in mufic. I 
knew one of that profeflion, who thought that 
there could be only three parts in harmony, to 
wit, bafs, tenor, and treble ; becaufe there 
are but three perfons in the Trinity. 

The learned and ingenious Dr. Henry 
More having very elaborately and methodically 
compiled his Erichiridiian Metaphyficwn, and 
Enchiridiian Ethicum^ found all the divifions 
and fubdivifions of both to be allegorically 
taught in the firfi: chapter of Genefis. Thus 
even very ingenious men are apt to make a ri- 
diculous figure, by drawing into the track, in 
which their thoughts have long run, things 
altogether foreign to it. 

Different perfons, either from temper or 
from education, have different tendencies of 
underflanding, which, by their excefs, are un- 
favourable to found judgment. 

Some have an undue admiration of antiquity, 
and contempt of whatever is modern j others 
go as far into the contrary extreme. It may 
be judged, that the former are perfons who 
value themfelves upon their acquaintance with 
ancient authors, and the latter fuch as have 
little knowledge of this kind. 

Some are afraid to venture a ftep out of the 
beaten track, and think it fafefl to go with the 
multitude ; others are fond of fmgularities, 
and of every thing that has the air of paradox. 

Some are defultory and changeable in their 
opinions ; others unduly tenacious. Mofl men 
have a predileftion for the tenets of their fed 
or party, and flill more for their own inven- 






The idola fori are the fallacies arifing from 
the impcrfedions and the abufe of language, 
which is an inflrument of thought as well as of 
the communication of our thoughts. 


Whether it be the effect of conflitution or of 
habit, I will not take upon me to determine ; 
bur, from one or both of thefe caufes, it hap- 
pens, that no man can purfue a train of thought 
or reafoning without the ufe of language. 
Words are the ngns of our thoughts ; and the 
fign is fo aiTociated with the thing fignified, 
that the lafl can hardly prefent itfelf to the ima- 
gination, without drawing the other along 
with it. 

A man who would compofe in any language, 
muit think in that language. If he thinks in 
one language what he would exprefs in ano- 
ther, he thereby doubles his labour, and after 
all, his expreinons will have more the air of a 
tranflaticn than of an orie:inal. 

This fliows that our thoughts take their co- 
lour in fome degree from the language we ufe ; 
and that, although language ought always to 
be fubfervicnt to thought, yet thought mud be 
at fome times, andin fome degree, fubfervient 
to language. 

As a fervant that Is extremely ufcful and ne- 
ceiTary to his mailer, by degrees acquires an 
authority over him, fo that the mafter mud 
often yield to the fervant; fuch is the cafe with 
anguage. Its intention is to be a 
but it is fo ufeful 
and fo neceilary, that we cannot avoid being 
fometimes led by it when it ought to foUoV'/. 
We cannot Ihake of this impediment, we mud 
drag it along vvith us ; and therefore mud 
direct our courfe, and regulate our pace, as 
it permits. . 


regard to 

fervant to the underdanding , 

Of PREJUDICES, the Caufes 0/ ERROR. 369 

Language mufl: have many imperfedionsC H AP. 
when applied to philofophy, becaufe it was not ,J/i[^ 
made for that ufe. In the early periods of 
fociety, rude and ignorant men ufe certain 
forms of fpeech, to exprefs their wants, their 
defires, and their tranfaclions with one another. 
Their language can reach no farther than their 
fpeculations and notions ; and if their notions 
be vague and ill defined, the words by which 
they exprefs them muft be fo likewife. 

It was a grand and noble proje£l of Bifhop 
"WiLKiNs, to invent a philofophical language, 
which fhould be free from the imperfeftions of 
vulgar languages. Whether this attempt will 
ever fucceed, fo far as to be generally ufeful, 
I fliall not pretend to determine. The great 
pains taken by that excellent man in this defign 
have hitherto produced no effect. Very few 
have ever entered minutely into his views j far 
lefs have his philofophical language and his 
real charadter been brought into ufe. 

He founds his philofophical language and 
real character upon a fyflematisal divifion and 
fubdivifion of all the things which may be ex- 
preffed by language, and, inftead of the an- 
cient divificn into ten categories, has made 
forty categories, ox fum-nia genera. But whe- 
ther this divifion, though made by a very com- 
prehenfive mind, will always fuit the various 
fyftems that may be introduced, and all the real 
improvements that may be made in human 
knowledge, may be doubted. The difF.culty 
is flill greater in the fubdivifions \ fo that it is 
to be feared, that this noble attempt of a great 
genius will prove abortive, until Philofophers 
Vol. II. B b havs 



C li A P have the fame cpinions and the fame fyftemsiii 
^\^'^- the tafioiis branches of human knowledge. 

There is more reafon to hope, that the lan- 
guage ufed by Philofophers may be gradually 
ittiproved in copioufnefs and in diftinftnefs j 
and that improrents in knowledge and in lan- 
guage may go hand in hand, and facilitate each 
other. Bet I fear the imperfeclions of lan- 
guage can never be perfectly remedied while 
our knowledge is imperfecl. 

•However this may be, it is evident that the 
itiipeiieclions of language, and much more the 
aDufe of it, are the occafion of many errors ; 
and that in many difputes which have engaged 
learned men, the difference has been partly, 
and in fome wholly, about the meaning of 

Mr. Locke found it necelTary to employ a 
fourth part of his Effay on Human Underftand- 
ing about words ; their various kinds ; their 
imperfedion and abufe, and the remedies of 
both ; and has made many obfervations up- 
on thefe fubkcts, well worthy of attentive 

The fourth clafs of prejudices are the iddla 
theatric by which are meant prejudices arifing 
from the fyftems or feds, in which we have 
been trained, or which we have adopted. 

A falfe fyftem once fixed in the mind, be- 
comes, as it were, the medium through which 
V. e fee obje£ls : They receive a tindure from 
it, and appear of another colour than when 
feen by a pure light. 

Upon the lam.e fubjeS:, a Platonift, a Peri- 
patetic, and aii Epicurean, will think diffe- 
rently, not only in matters connected with his 


Of PREJUDICES, the Caufes 0/ ERROR. 371 

peculiar tenets, but even in things remote from CHAP, 
them. ^ ^'"^• 

A judicious hiftory of the different feels of 
Philofophers, and the different methods of 
philofophifmg, which have obtained among 
mankind, would be of no fmall ufe to direft 
men in the fearch of truth. In fuch a hiflory, 
what would be of the greateft moment is not 
fo much a minute detail of the dogmata of each 
fed, as a juft dehneation of the fpirit of the 
fed, and of that point of view in which things 
appeared to its founder. This was perfectly 
underftood, and, as far as concerns the the- 
ories of morals, is executed with great judg- 
ment and candour by Dr. Smith in his Theo- 
ry of moral fentiments. 

As there are certain temperaments of the 
body that difpofe a man more to one clafs of 
difeafes than to another; and, on the other 
hand, difeafes of that kind, when they happen 
by accident, are apt to induce the tempera- 
ment that is fuited to them ; there is fome- 
thing analogous to this in the difeafes of the 

A certain complexion of underftanding may 
difpofe a man to one fyflem of opinions more 
than to another; and, on the other hand, a 
fyftem of opinions, fixed in the mind by edu- 
cation or otherwife, gives that complexion to 
the underftanding which is fuited to them. 

It were to be wifhed, that the different fyf- 
tems that have prevailed could be claffed ac- 
cording to their fpirit, as well as named from 
their founders. Lord Bacon has diftinsuifhed 
falfe philofophy into the fophiftical, the empi- 
rical, and the fuperftitious, and has made ju- 
B b 2 dicious 




^ vm ^' ^'^^^^^^ obfervations upon each of thefe kinds. 
^^^ryr■:^^ S"t I apprehend this fubjed deferves to be 

treated more fully by fuch a hand, if fuch a 

hand can be found. 



Baa— ?g«aai— M'ii.i-B«w<.j » i-ijLjHa,a '! f.j/ ^ J-J /^ p 



Of Reafoning in general, and of Demonfiration» 

'T"^HE power of reafoning Is very nearly 
I allied to that of judging ; and it is of 
little confequence in the common affairs of life 
to diftinguilh them nicely. On this account, 
the fame name is often given to both. We 
include both under the name of reafon. The 
.aifent we give to a propofition is called judg- 
ment, whether the propofition be felf-evident, 
or derive its evidence by reafoning from other 

Yet there is a diflinction between reafoning 
and judging. Reafoning is the procefs by 
which we pafs from one judgment to another 
which is the confequence of it. Accordingly 
our judgments are diftinguiflied into intuitive, 
which are not grounded upon any preceding 
judgment, and difcurfive, v/hich are deduced 
fromfome preceding judgment by reafoning. 

In all reafoning, therefore, there muft be 
a propofition inferred, and one or more from 
which it is inferred. And this power of in- 
ferring, or drawing a conclufion, is only another 






CHAP, name for reafoning ; the propofitlon inferred 
hting c2i\\ed the conchijton^ and the propofition, 
or propofitions from which it is inferred, the 

Reafoning may confift of many fteps ; the 
firft conclufion being a premife to a fecond, 
that to a third, and fo on, till we come to the 
laft conclufion, A procefs confiding of many 
fteps of this kind, is fo eafily dillinguiflied 
from judgment, that it is never called by that 
name. But when there is only a fingle Itep to 
the conclufion, the diftindion is lefs obvious, 
and the procefs is fometimes called judgment, 
fometimes reafoning. 

It is not ftrange, that, in common difcourfe, 
judgment and reafoning fhould not be very 
nicely diftinguiflied, fince they are in fome 
cafes confounded even by Logicians. We are 
taught in logic, that judgment is exprefled by 
one propofition, but that reafoning requires 
two or three. But fo various are the modes of 
fpeech, that what in one mode is exprefled by 
two or three propofitions, may in another 
mode be exprefled by one. Thus I may fay, 
God is good; therefore good men JJjall be happy. 
This is reafoning, of that kind which Logici- 
ans call an enthymeme, confifl:ing of an ante- 
cedent propofition, and a conclufion drawn 
from it. But this reafoning may be exprefled 
by one propofition, thus : Becaiife God is goody 
good men Jhall be happy. This is what they call 
a caufal propofition, and therefore exprefles 
judgment; yet the enthymeme which is rea- 
foning, expreiles no more. 

Reafoning, as well as judgment, mufl: be 
true or falfej both are grounded upon evi- 

Of Reafoning, and of Demonjlraikn. $7$ 

dence which may be probable or demonfcrative, ^ ^^ ^'• 
and both are accompanied with affent or be- 

The power of reafoning is juftly accounted 
one of the prerogatives of human nature; 
becaufe by it many important truths have been, 
and may be difcovered, which without it would 
be beyond our reach; yet it feems to be only 
a kind of crutch to a limited underftandino-. 


We can conceive an underftanding, fuperior 
to human, to which that truth appears intui- 
tively, which we can only difcover by reafon- 
ing. For this caufe, though we mud afcribe 
judgment to the Almighty, we do not afcribe 
reafoning to him, becaufe it implies fome de- 
fe6t or limitation of underftanding. Even 
among men, to ufe reafoning in things that 
are felf-evident, is trifling ; like a man going 
Aipon crvitches when he can walk upon his 

What reafoning is, can be underftood only 
by a man v/ho has reafoned, and who is capa- 
ble of receding upon this operation of his own 
mind. We can define it only by fynonimous 
words or phrafes, fuch as inferring, drawing 
a conclufion, and the like. The very notion 
of reafoning, therefore, can enter into the 
mind by uo other channel than that of reflect- 
ing upon the operation of reafoning in our own 
minds ; and the notions of premifes and con- 
clufion, of a fyllogifm, and all its conftituent 
parts, of an entbymeme, forites, demonflra- 
tion, paralogifm, and many others, have the 
fame origin. 

It is Nature undoubtedly that gives us the 
capacity of reafoning. When this is wanting, 
^o art nor education can fupply it. But this 



CHAP, capacity may be dormant through life, like the 
^- feed of a plant, which, for want of heat and 
' 'moifture, never vegetates. This is probably 
the cafe of fome favages. 

Although the capacity be purely the gift of 
Nature, and probably given in very different 
degrees to different perfons ; yet the power of 
reafoning feems to be got by habit, as much as 
the power of walking or running. Its firffc ex- 
ertions vve are not able to recollect in ourfelves, 
or clearly to difcern in others. They are ve- 
ry feeble, and need to be led by example, 
and fupported by authority. By degrees it 
acquires flrength, chiefly by means of imitati- 
on and exercife. 

The exercife of reafoning on various fub- 
je£ts not only ftrengthens the faculty, but fur- 
nilhes the mind with a flore of materials. Eve- 
ry train of reafoning, which is familiar, be- 
comes a beaten track in the way to many 
others. It removes many obftacles which lay 
in our w^ay, and fmooths many roads which 
we may have occafion to travel in future dif- 

When men of equal natural parts apply 
their reafoning power to any fubjedt, the man 
who has reafoned much on the fame, or on fi- 
milar fubjeds, has a like advantage over him 
who has not, as the mechanic wdio has ftore 
of tools for his work, has of him who has his 
tools to make, or even to invent. 

In a train of reafoning, the evidence of 
every flep, where nothing is left to be fup- 
plied by the reader or hearer, muft be imme- 
diately difcernible to every man of ripe under- 
(landing who hasadiflinctcomprehenfion of the 


Of Reafoning, and of Demonjiration. 377 

premifes and conclufion, and who compares them C H A P. 
together. To be able to comprehend, in one 
view, a combination of fteps of this kind, is 
more difficult, and feems to require a fuperior 
natural ability. In all, it may be much im- 
proved by habit. 

But the higheft talent in reafoning is the in-, 
vention of proofs ; by which, truths remote 
from the premifes are brought to light. In all 
works of underftanding, invention has the 
higheft pralfe ; it requires an extenfive view 
of what relates to the fubjeft, and a qiiicknefs 
in difcerning thofe affipities and relations which 
may be fubfervient to the purpofe. 

In all invention there mull be fome end in 
view : And fagacity in finding out the road 
that leads to this end, is, I think, what we 
call invention. In this chiefly, as I apprehend, 
and in clear and diftinfl conceptions, confifts 
that fuperiority of underilanding which v/e call 

In every chain of reafoning, the evidence 
of the laft conclufion can be no greater than 
that of the weakeft link of the chain, whatever 
may be the ftrength of the reft. 

The moft remarkable diftinclion of reafonings 
is, that fome are probable, others demonilra- 

In every ftep of demonftrative reafoning, 
the inference is neceifary, and we perceive it 
to be impofiible that the conclufion fliould not 
follow from the premifes. In probable reafon- 
ing, the connection between the premifes, and 
the conclufion is not neceifary, nor do we per- 
ceive it to be impoffible that the firfl fliould be 
true while the laft is falfe. 



CHAP, Hence demonftrative reafoning has no de- 
,__ grees, nor can one demonftration be ftronger 
than another, though, in relation to our fa- 
culties, one may be more eafily comprehended 
than another. Every demonftration gives 
equal flrength to the conclufion, and leaves 
no poffibiiity of its being falfe. 

It vi-as, 1 think, the opinion of all the anci- 
ents, that demonftrative reafoning can be ap- 
plied only to truths that are neceffary, and not 
to thofe that are contingent. In this, I be- 
lieve, they judged right. Of all created 
things, the exiftence, the attributes, and con- 
fequently the relations refulting from thofe at- 
tributes, are contingent. They depend upon 
the will and power of him who made them. 
Thefe are matters of fadt, and admit not of 

The field of demonftrative reafoning, there- 
fore, is the various relations of things abftra£l, 
that is, of things which we conceive, without 
regard to their exiftence. Of thefe, as they 
are conceived by the mind, and are nothing 
but what they are conceived to be, we may 
have a clear and adequate comprehenfion. 
Their relations and attributes are necefiary 
and immutable. They are the things to which 
the Pythagoreans and Platonifts gave the name 
of ideas. I would beg leave to borrow this 
meaning of the word idea from thofe ancient 
Philofophers, and then I muft agree with them, 
that ideas are the only objefts about which we 
can reafon demonftratively. 

There are many even of our ideas about 
which we can carry on no confiderable train, 
of reafoning. Though they be ever fo well 
defined and perfedly comprehended, yet their 


Of Reafoning, and of Dcmonjiration. 2>79 

agreements and difagreements are few, and^HAP, 
thefe are difcerned at once. We may go a 
flep or two in forming a conclufion with re- 
gard to fuch objects, but can go no farther. 
There are others, about which we may, by a 
long train of demonftrative reafoning, arrive 
at conclufions very remote and unexpected. 

The reafonings I have met with that can be 
called flridly demonftrative, may, I think, be 
reduced to two claiTes. They are either meta-r 
phyfical, or they are mathematical. 

In metaphyseal reafoning, the procefs is 
always fhort. The conclufion is but a ftep or 
two, feldom more, from the firft principle or 
axiom on which it is grounded, and the dif- 
ferent conclufions depend not one upon ano- 

It is otherwife in mathematical reafoning. 
Here the field has no limits. One proportion 
leads on to another, that to a third, and fo on 
without end. 

If it fliould be afked, why demonftriitive 
reafoning has fo wide a field in mathematics, 
while, in other abftract fubjecls, it is confined 
within very narrow limits ? I conceive this is 
chiefly owing to the nature of quantity, the 
objeft of mathematics. 

Every quantity, as it has magnitude, and is 
divifible into parts without end, fo, in ref- 
peft of its magnitude, it has a certain ratio to 
every quantity of the kind. The ratios of 
quantities are innumerable, fuch as, a half, 
a third, a tenth, double, triple. All the pow- 
ers of number are infufficient to exprefs the 
variety of ratios. For there are innumerable 
ratios which cannot be perfeftly expreffed by 
numbers, fuch as, the ratio of the fide to the 


38o ESSAY Vir. 

CHAP, diagonal of a fquare, of the circumference of 
J-_ a circle to the diameter. Of this infinite va- 
riety of ratios, every one may be clearly con- 
ceived, and diftindly exprefled, fo as to be 
in no danger of being miflaken for any other. 

Extended quantities, fuch as lines, furfaces, 
folids, befides the variety of relations they 
have ' in refpe£t of magnitude, have no lefs 
variety in refpect of figure; and every mathe- 
matical figure may be accurately defined, fo as 
to diftinguifh it from all others. 

There is nothing of this kind in other ob- 
jects of abftracl reafoning. Some of them 
have various degrees; but thefe are not capa- 
ble of meafure, nor can be faid to have an 
afiignable ratio to others of the kind. They 
are either fimple, or compounded of a few in- 
diviiible parts; and therefore, if we may be 
allowed the expreifion, can touch only in few 
points. But mathematical quantities being 
made up of parts without number, can touch 
in innumerable points, and be compared in 
innumerable different ways. 

There have been attempts made to meafure 
the merit of adions by the ratios of the affec- 
tions and principles of adion from which they 
proceed. This may perhaps, in the way of 
analogy, ferve to illuilrate what was before 
known ; but I do not think any truth can be 
difcovered in this way. There are, no doubt, 
degrees of benevolence, felf-love, and other 
affections ; but, when we apply ratios to them, 
I apprehend we have no diftinft meaning. 

Some demonflrations are called dired, 
others indireO;. The firfh kind leads direftly 
to the conclufion to be proved. Of the indi- 
red fome are called demonflrations ad abfur- 


Of Reafonini^ and of Demonfiration, 381 

dum. In thefe the propofition contradictory CHAP, 
to that which is to be proved is demonftrated ^• 
to be falfe, or to lead to an abfurdity ; whence ^""^''"""^ 
it follows, that its contradictory, that is, the 
propofition to be proved, is true. This infe- 
rence is grounded upon an axiom in logic. 
That of two contradictory propofitions, if one 
be falfe, the other muft be true. 

Another kind of indirect demonfiration 
proceeds by enumerating all the fuppofitions 
that can polTibly be made concerning the pro- 
pofition to be proved, and then demonftrating, 
that all of them, excepting that which is to 
be proved, are falfe; whence it follows, that 
the excepted fuppofition is true. Thus one 
line is proved to be equal to another, by prov- 
ing firft that it cannot be greater, and then 
that it cannot be lefs : For it muft be either 
greater, or lefs, or equal; and two of thefe 
fuppofitions being demonftrated to be falfe, the 
third muft be true. 

All thefe kinds of demonftration are ufed 
in mathematics, and perhaps fome others. 
They have all equal ftrength. The dired de- 
monftration is preferred where it can be had, 
for this reafon only, as I apprehend, becaufe 
it is the ftiorteft road to the conclufion. The 
nature of the evidence and its ftrength is the 
fame in all: Only we are conducted to it by 
different roads. 



C H A P. 11. 

Whether Morality be capable of Demon/iration* 

WHAT has been faid of demonftrative 
reafoning may help us to judge of 
an opinion of Mr. Loc ke, advanced in feve- 
rai places of his ElTay; to wit, " That morahty 
" is capable of demonftration as well as ma- 
" thematics." 

In book 3. chap. 1 1. having obferved, that 
mixed modes, c£pecially thofe belonging to 
morality, being fuch combinations of ideas as 
the mind puts together of its own choice, the 
fignification of their names may be perfecily 
and exactly defined, he adds, 

Se6t. 16. " Upon this ground it is that I am 
" bold to think, that morality is capable of 
" demonftration as well as mathematics: Since 
*' the precife real elTence of the things moral 
" words {land for may be perfectly known, 
" and fo the congruity or incongruity of the 
" things themfeives be jcertainly difcovered, in 
" which confifts perfect knowledge. Nor let 
*' any one object, That the names of fubllan- 
" ces are often to be made uie of in morality, 
" as well as ihofe of modes, from which will 
" arife obfcurity : For, as to fubftances, when 
" concerned in moral difcourfes, their divers 
" natures are not fo much enquired into as 
" fuppofed: v. g. When we fay that man is 
*' fubject to law, we mean nothing by man but 
" a corporeal rational creature : What the real 
" effence or other quahties of that creature are, 
*' in this cafe, is no way confidered." 


Of Reafonin^, and of Defnonflration. S^^f 

Again, in book 4. ch. 3. § 18. " The idea^ HAP. 
" of a Supreme Being, whofe workmanfliip ' ^ 
*' we are, and the idea of ourfelves, being 
" fuch as are clear in us, would, I fuppofe, if 
'^ duly confidered and purfued, afford fuch 
" foundation of our duty and rules of action, 
" as might place morality among the fciences 
" capable of demonftration. The relation of 
" other modes may certainly be perceived, as 
" well as thofe of number and extenfion ; and 
" I cannot fee why they lliould not be capable 
" of demonftration, if due methods were 
" thought on to examine or purfue their agree- 
" ment or difagreement.'* 

He afterwards gives as inftances two propo- 
rtions, as moral propofitions of which we may 
be as certain as of any in mathematics; and 
confiders at large what may have given the ad- 
vantage to the ideas of quantity, and made 
them be thought more capable of certainty and 

Again, in the 12th chapter of the fame 
book, § 7, 8. " This I think I may fay, that 
" if other ideas that are the real as well as no- 
" minal elTences of their feveral fpecies, were 
*' purfued in the way familiar to Mathematici- 
" ans, they would carry our thoughts farther, 
" and with greater evidence and clearnefs, 
" than poffibly v/e are apt to imagine. This 
" gave me the confidence to advance that con- 
" jefl:ure which I fuggeft, chap. 3. 'viz. That 
" morality is capable of demonftration as well 
" as mathematics." 

From thefe paffages it appears, that this opi- 
nion was not a tranfient thought, but what he 
had revolved in his mind on different occafions. 
He offers liis reafons for it, illuftrates it by ex- 


CHAP, amples, and confiders at length the caufes that 
have led men to think mathematics more capa- 
'^'^^ble of demonflration than the principles of 

Some of his learned correfpondents, parti- 
cularly his friend Mr. Molyneux, urged and 
importuned him to compofe a fyflem of morals 
according to the idea he had advanced in his 
Eifay ; and, in his anfwer to thefe folicitations, 
he only pleads other occupations, without fug- 
gelling any change of his opinion, or any 
great dilficulty in the execution of what was 

The reafon he gives for this opinion is inge- 
nious ; and his regard for virtue, the higheft 
prerogative of the human fpecies, made him 
fond of an opinion which feemed to be favoura- 
ble to virtue, and to have a jufl foundation 
in reafon. 

We need not, however, be afraid, that the 
intereft of virtue may fuffer by a free and can- 
did examination of this queflion, or indeed of 
any queftion whatever. For the interefls of 
truth and of virtue can never be found in oppo- 
fition. Darknefs and error may befriend vice, 
but can never be favourable to virtue. 

Thofe Philofophers who think that our de- 
terminations in morals are not real judgments, 
that right and wrong in human conduft are 
only certain feelings or fenfations in the per- 
fon who contemplates the aftion, mull rejeft 
Mr. Locke's opinion without examination. 
For if the principles of morals be not a matter 
of judgment, but of feeling only, there can be 
no demonflration of them ; nor can any other 
reafon be given for them, but that men are fo 
conflituted by the Author of their being, as to 


Whether Morality be Demonstrable. 385 

contemplate with plcafure the aclions we call; 
virtuous, and with difgucl thofe we call vi- 

It is not therefore to be expecled, that the 
Philofophers of this clafs fliould think this opi- 
nion of Mr. Locke worthy of examination, 
fince it is founded upon what they think afalfe 
hypothefis. But if our determinations in mo- 
rality be real judgments, and, like all other 
judgments, be either true or falfe, it is not un- 
important to underftand upon what kind of 
evidence thofe judgments reft. 

The arguments offered by Mr. Locke, to 
jfliow that morality is capable of dcmonftration, 
is, " That the precife real effence of the things 
*' moral words ftand for, may be perfectly 
" known, and fo the congruity or incongruity 
" of the things themfelves be perfectly difco- 
" vered, in which confifts perfe£t knowledge.'* 

It is true, that the field of dcmonftration is 
the various relations of things conceived ab- 
ftracliy, of which we may have perfect and 
adequate conceptions. And Mr. Locke, 
taking all the things which moral words ftand 
for to be of this kind, concluded that morahty 
is as capable of dcmonftration as mathematics. 

I acknowledge, that the names of the vir- 
tues and vices, of right and obligation, of 
liberty and property, ftand for things abftracl, 
which may be accurately defined, or, at leaft, 
conceived as diftindly and adequately as ma- 
thematical quantities. And thence indeed it 
follows, that their mutual relations may be per- 
ceived as clearly and certainly as mathematical 

Of this Mr. Locke gives two pertinent ex- 
amples : The firft, " where there is no pro- 

VoL. II. C c . " perty. 



CHAP." perty, there is no injudice, is, fays he, 2: 
^ • '' propofition as certain as any demonftration 
" in Euclid." 

When injuftice is defined to be a violation 
of property, it is as neceffary a truth, that 
there can be no injuflice where there is no pro- 
perty, as that you cannot take from a man 
that which he has not. 

The fecond example is, " That no govern- 
" ment allows abfolute liberty.'* This is a 
truth no lefs certain and necefiarv. 

Such abilraci: truths I would call metaphyfical 
rather than moral. We give the name of ma- 
thematical, to truths that exprefs the relations 
of quantifies confidered abflractly ; all other 
abilracl truths may be called metaphyfical. 
But if thofe mentioned by Mr. Locke are to 
be called moral truths, I agree with him that 
there are many fuch that are necelfarily true, 
and that have all the evidence that mathematical 
truths can have. 

It- ought however to be remembered, that, 
as was before obferved, the relations of things 
abftracl, perceivable by us, excepting thofc of 
mathematical quantities, are fev/, and for the 
m.oit part immediately difcerned, fo as not to 
require that train of reafoning which we call 
demonftration. Their evidence refembles more 
that of mathematical axioms than mathematical 

This appears in the two propofitions given as 
examples by Mr. Locke. The firft follows 
immediately from the definition of injulHce ; 
the fecond from the definition of govern- 
ment. Their evidence may more properly be 
called intuitive than demonflrativc : And this 
I apprehend to be the cafe, or nearly the cafe 


Whether Morality he Demonstrable. 387 
of all abftraft truths that are not mathematical, ^ ^ ^^- 


for the reafon given in the laft chapter. v,-v-^ 

The propofitions which I think are properly 
called moral, are thofe that affirm fome moral 
obligation to be, or not to be incumbent on 
one or more individual perfons. To fuch pro- 
portions Mr. Locke's reafoning does not ap- 
ply, becaufe the fubjecls of the propofition are 
not things whofe real eflfence may be perfectly 
known. They are the creatures of God ; their 
obligation refults from the conflitution which 
God hath given them, and the circumftances 
in which he hath placed them. That an in- 
dividual hath fuch a conflitution, and is placed 
in fuch circumftances, is not an abftracl and 
neceflary, but a contingent truth. It is a mat- 
ter of fad, and therefore not capable of demon- 
ftrative evidence, which belongs only to ne- 
ceflary truths. 

The evidence which every man hath of his 
own exiftence, though it be irrefiftible, is not 
demonflrative. And the fame thing may be 
faid of the evidence which every man hath, 
that he is a moral agent, and under certain 
moral obligations. In like manner, the evi- 
dence we have of the exiftence of other men is 
not demonftrative ; nor is the evidence we have 
of their being endowed with thofe faculties 
which make them moral and accountable 

If man had not the faculty given him by 
God of perceiving certain things in condudtto 
be right, and others to be wrong, and of per- 
ceiving his obligation to do what is right, and 
not to do what is wrong, he would not be a 
moral and accountable being. 

C c 2 If 


If man be endowed with fuch a faculty^ 
there mud be fome things, which, by this fa* 
cuUy, are immediately difcerned to be right, 
and others to be wrong ; and therefore there 
muft be in morals, as in other faiences, firfl 
principles, which do not derive their evidence 
from any antecedent principles, but may be 
faid to be intuitively difcerned. 

Moral truths, therefore, may be divided 
into two clafles, to wit, fuch as are felf-evident 
to every man whofe underftanding and moral 
faculty are ripe, and fuch as are deduced by 
reafoning from thofe that are felf evident. If 
the firft be not difcerned without reafoning, 
the lad never can be fo by any reafoning. 

If any man could fay with fmcerity, that he 
is confcious of no obligation to confult his own 
prefent and future happinefs ; to be faithful to 
his engagements ; to obey his Maker ; to in- 
jure no man ; I know not what reafoning, ei- 
ther probable or demonftrative, I could ufe to 
convince him of any moral duty. As you 
cannot reafon in mathematics with a man who 
denies the axioms, as little can you reafon with 
a man in morals who denies the firft principles 
of morals. The man who does not, by the 
light of his own mind, perceive fome things in 
condu6t to be right, and others to be wrong, 
is as incapable of reafoning about morals as a 
blind man is about colours. Such a inan, if 
any fuch man ever was, would be no m^oral 
agent, nor capable of any moral obligation. 

Some firfl principles of morals muft be im- 
mediately difcerned, otherwife we have no 
foundation on which others can reft, or from 
v;hich we can reafon. 


Whether Morality be Demonstrable. 3^9 

Every man knows certainly, that, what heC H Ai»- 
approves in other men he ought to do in Hke ^"^• 
circumftances, and that he ought not to do '-""^^""^ 
what he condemns in other men. Every man 
knows that he ought, with candour, to ufe the 
beft means of knowing his duty. To every 
man who has a confcience, thefe things are 
felf-evident. They are immediate dictates of 
our moral faculty, which is a part of the 
human conftitution ; and every man condemns 
himfelf, whether he will or not, when he know- 
ingly ads contrary to them. The evidence of 
thefe fundamental principles of morals, and of 
others that might be named, appears therefore 
to me to be intuitive rather than demonflrative. 

The man who ads according to the didates 
of his confcience, and takes due pains to be 
rightly informed of his duty, is a perfed man 
with regard to morals, and merits no blame, 
whatever may be the imperfedions or errors of 
his underflanding. He who knowingly ads 
contrary to them is confcious of guilt, and 
felf-condemned. Every particular adion that 
falls evidently within the fundamental rules of 
morals is evidently his duty ; and it requires 
310 reafoning to convince him that it is fo. 
, Thus I think it appears, that every man of 
Ixommon underflanding knows certainly, and 
without reafoning, the ultimate ends he ought 
to purfue, and that reafoning is neceffary only 
to difcover the mod proper means of attaining 
them ; and in this, indeed, a good man may 
often be in doubt. 

Thus, a Magiflrate knows that it is his duty 
to promote the good of the community which 
hath .entrufted him with authority ; and to offer 
to prove this to him by reafoning would be to 


590 ESSAY VU. 


CHAP. afFront him. But whether fuch a fcheme of 
Jl'.^ condu6t in his office, or another, may befl 
ferve that end, he may in many cafes be doubt- 
ful. I beheve, in fuch cafes, he can very 
rarely have demonflrative evidence. His con- 
fcience determines the end he ought to purfue, 
and he has intuitive evidence that his end is 
good ; but prudence muft determine the means 
of attaining that end ; and prudence can very 
rarely ufe demonflrative reafoning, but muft 
reft in what appears moft probable. 

I apprehend, that in every kind of duty we 
owe to God or man, the cafe is fimilar ; that 
is, That the obligation of the moft general 
rules of duty is felf-evident ; that the applica^ 
tion of thofe rules to particular adions is often 
no lefs evident ; and that, when it is not evi- 
dent, but requires reafoning, that reafoning 
can very rarely be of the demonftrative, but 
m.uft be of the probable kind. Sometimes it 
depends upon the temper and talents and cir- 
cumftances of the man himfclf ; fometimes up- 
on the character and circumftances of others 
fometimes upon both ; and thefe are things 
which admit not of demonftratlon. 

Every man is bound to employ the talents 
which God hath given him to the beft purpofe ; 
but if, through accidents which he could nc 
forefee, or ignorance which was invinciblt 
they be lefs ufefullv employed than they mis;! 
have been, this will not be imputed to him b^ 
bis righteous Judge. 

It is a common and a juft obfervation, ths 
the man of virtue plays a furer game in ordej 
to obtain his end than the man of the work 
It is not, however, becaufe he reaf^ns better 
concerning the means of attaining his end ; 


Whether Morality be Demonstrable. 391 

for the children of this world are often wiferC H A P, 
in their generation than the children of hght. ^''• 
But the reafon of the obfervation is, that invo- "v— ^ 
luntary errors, unforefcen accidents, and in- 
vincible ignorance, which ailed deeply all the 
concerns of the prefent world, have no efPecl 
upon virtue or its reward. 

In the common occurrences of life, a man of 
integrity, who hath exercifed his moral faculty 
in judging what is right and what is wrong, 
fees his duty without reafoning, as he fees the 
high way. The cafes that require reafoning 
are few, compared with thofe that require 
none ; and a man may be very honed and vir- 
tuous who cannot reafon, and who knows not 
what demonftration means. 

The power of reafoning, in thofe that have 
it, may be abufed in morals, as in other mat- 
ters. To a man who ufes it with an upright 
lieart, and a fmgle eye to find what is his duty, 
it will be of great ufe ; but when it is ufed to 
juftify what a man has a ftrong inclination to 
do, it will only ferve to deceive himfelf and 
others. When a man can reafon, his palli- 
ons will reafon, and they are the mod cunning 
fophifts we meet with. 

If the rules of virtue were left to be difcover- 
ed by demonftrative reafoning, or by reafoning 
of any kind, fad would be the condition of the 
far greater part of men, who have not the 
means of cultivating the power of reafoning. 
jAs virtue is the bufmefs of all men, the firil 
principles of it are written in their hearts, in 
characters fo legible, that no man can pretend 
ignorance of them, or of his obligation to prac- 
tife them. 





Some knowledge of duty and of moral obli- 
gation is neceffary to all men. Without it they 
could not be moral and accountable creatures, 
nor capable of being members of civil fociety. 
It may therefore be prefumed, that Nature has 
put this knowledge within the reach of all men. 
Reafoning and demonftration are weapons 
which the greatefl part of mankind never was 
able to wield. The knowledge that is neceffary 
to all, muft be attainable by all. We fee it is 
fo in what pertains to the natural life of man. 

Some knowledge of things that are ufeful, 
and things that are hurtful^ is fo neceffary to 
all men, that without it the fpecies would foon 
perifh. But it is not by reafoning that this 
knowledge is got, far lefs by dcmonflrative 
reafoning. It is by our fenfes, by memory, 
by experience, by information ; means of 
knowledge that are open to all men, and put 
the learned and the unlearned, thofe [who can 
reafon and thofe who cannot, upon a level. 

It may, therefore, be expefted from the 
analogy of nature, that fuch a knowledge of 
morals as is neceffary to all men, fhould be 
had by means more fuited to the abilities of all 
men than demonftrative reafoning is. 

This, I apprehend, is in fa6l the cafe. 
When mens faculties are ripe, the firfl princi- 
ples of morals, into which all moral realbning 
may be refolved, are perceived intuitively, and 
in a manner more analogous to the perceptions 
of fenfe than to the conclufions of demonflra- 
,tive reafoning. 

Upon the whole, I agree with Mr. Locke, 
that propofiiions expreffmg the congruities and 
incongruities of things abflraft, which mo- 
ral words ftand for, may have all the evi- 

Whether Morality be Demonstrable. 393 

dence of mathematical truths. But this is notC HAP. 
peculiar to things which mora), words ftand ^_2z~~^ 
tor. It is common to abftract propofitions of 
every kind. For inftance, you cannot take 
from a man what he has not. A. man cannot 
be bound and perfe6:ly free at the fame time. 
I think no man will call thefe moral truths, 
but they are neceflliry truths, and as evident as 
any in mathematics. Indeed, they are very 
nearly allied to the two which Mr. Locke gives 
as inflances of moral proportions capable of 
demonftration. Of fuch abftracl propofitions, 
I think it may more properly be faid, that they 
have the evidence of mathematical axioms, 
than that they are capable of demonftration. 

There are propofitions of another kind, 
which alone deferve the name of moral propo- 
fitions. They are fuch as affirm fomething to 
be the duty of perfons that really exift. Thefe 
are not abftrad; proportions ; and therefore 
Mr. Locke's reafoning does not apply to them. 
The truth of all fuch propofitions depends upon 
the conftitution and circumftances of the per- 
fons to whom they are applied. 

Of fuch propofitions, there are fome that 
are felf-evident to every man that has a confci- 
ence ; and thefe are the principles from which 
all moral reafoning muft be drawn. They may 
be called the axioms of morals. But our rea- 
foning from thefe axioms to any duty that is 
not felf-evident, can very rarely be demonftra- 
tive. Nor is this any detriment to the caufe of 
virtue, becaufe to a6t againft what appears moll 
probable in a matter of duty, is as real a tref- 
pafs againft the firft principles of morality, as to 
aft againft demonftration ; and becaufe he who 
has but one talent in reafoning, and makes the 





CHAP, proper ufe of it, fhall be accepted, as well as 
he to whom God has given ten. 


Of probable Reafoning. 

THE field of demonftration, as has been ob- 
ferved, is neceffary truth ; the field of 
probable reafoning is contingent truth, not 
what neceffarily mud be at all times, but what 
is, or was, or ihall be. 

No contingent truth is capable of ftri6l de- 
monftration ; but neceffary truths may fome- 
times have probable evidence. 

Dr. Wallis difcovered many important ma- 
thematical truths, by that kind of induction 
which draws a general conclufion from parti- 
cular premifes. This is not flricl demonflra- 
tion, but, in fome cafes, gives as full convic- 
tion as demonftration itfelf ; and a man may 
be certain, that a truth is demonftrable before 
it ever has been demonftrated. In other cafes, 
a mathematical propofition may have fuch pro- 
bable evidence from induftion of analogy, as 
encourages the Mathematician to invefligate 
its demonftration. But ftill the reafoning pro- 
per to mathematical and other neceffary truths, 
is demonftration ; and that which is proper to 
contingent truths, is probable reafoning. 

Thefe two kinds of reafoning differ in other 
refpetts. In demonftrative reafoning, one ar- 
gument is as good as a thoufand. One de- 
monftration may be more elegant than ano- 
ther ; it may be more eafily comprehended, 
or it may be more fubfervient to fome purpofe 



beyond the prefent. On any of thcfe accounts^ ^,^^' 
it may defcrye a preference : But then it is fuf- ^ 
ficient by itfelf ; it needs no aid from another ; 
it can receive none. To add more demonllra- 
tions of the fame conclufion, would be a kind 
of tautology in reafoning ; becaufe one de- 
monltration, clearly comprehended, gives ail 
the evidence we are capable of receiving. 

The ftrength of probable reafoning, tor the 
moiL part, depends not upon any one argu- 
ment, but upon many, which unite their 
force, and lead to the fame conclufion. Any 
one of them by itfelf would be infufficient to 
convince ; but the whole taken together may 
have a force that is irrefiftible, fo that to de- 
fire more evidence would be abfurd. Would 
any man feek new arguments to prove that 
there were fuch perfons as King Charles the 
Firft, or Oliver Cromwell ? 

Such evidence may be compared to a rope- 
made up of many flender filaments tv/ifled to- 
gether. The rope has flrcngth more than fuf- 
ficient to bear the ftrefs laid upon it, though 
no one of the filaments of which it is compofed 
would be fufficient for that purpofe. 

It is a common obfervation, that it is un- 
reafonable to require demonllration for things 
which do not admit of it. It is no lefs unrea- 
fonable to require reafoning of any kind for 
things which are known without reafoning. 
All reafoning mud be grounded upon truths 
which are known v/ithout reafoninij. In every 
branch of real knowledge there mud be firlt 
principles whofe truth is known i-ntuitively, 
without reafoning, either probable or demon- 
ftrative. They are not grounded on reafon- 
ing, but all reafoning is grounded on them. 




CHAP, It has been lliown, that there are firft; princi- 

^"- pies of neceffary truths, and firft principles of 

contingent truths. Demonftrative reafoning 

is grounded upon the former, and probable 

reafoning upon the latter. 

That we may not be embarrafled by the am- 
biguity of words, it is proper to obferve, that 
there is a popular meaning of probable evidence, 
which ought not to be confounded with the 
philofophical meaning, above explained. 

In common language, probable evidence is 
confidered as an inferior degree of evidence, 
and is oppofed to certainty : So that what is 
certain is more than probable, and what is on- 
ly probable is not certain. Philofophers confi- 
der probable evidence, not as a degree, but 
as afpecies of evidence which is oppofed, not to 
certainty, but to another fpecies of evidence 
called demonftration. 

Demonftrative evidence has no degrees ; 
but probable evidence, taken in the philofo- 
phical fenfe, has all degrees, from the very 
leaft, to the greateft which we call certainty. 

That there is fuch a city as Rome, I am as 
certain as of any propofition in Euclid ; but 
the evidence is not demonftrative, but of that 
kind which Philofophers call probable. Yet, 
in common language, it would found oddly 
to fay, it is probable there is fuch a city as 
Rome, becaufe it would imply fome degree 
of doubt or uncertainty. 

Taking probable evidence, therefore, in 
the philofophical fenfe, as it is oppofed to de- 
monftrative, it may have any degrees of evi- 
dence, from the leaft to the greateft. 

I think, in moft cafes, we meafure the de- 
grees of evidence by the effett they have upon 

a found 



a found underflanding, when comprehended^ ^^ ^• 
clearly and without prejudice. Every degree ^ 
of evidence perceived by the mind, produces 
a proportioned degree of alTent or belief. 
The judgment may be in perfect fufpenfe be- 
tween two contradictory opinions, when there 
is no evidence for either, or equal evidence for 
both. The lead preponderancy on one fide 
inclines the judgment in proportion. Belief 
is mixed with doubt, more or lefs, until we 
come to the higheft degree of evidence, when 
all doubt vanifhes, and the belief is firm and 
immoveable. This degree of evidence, the 
highefl the human faculties can attain, we call 

Probable evidence not only differs in kind 
from demonflrative, but is itfelf of different 
kinds. The chief of thefe I fhall mention, 
without pretending to make a complete enume- 

The firfl kind is that of human teflimony, 
upon which the greatefl part of human know- 
ledge is built. 

The faith of hiflory depends upon it, as 
well as the judgment of folema tribunals, with 
regard to mens acquired rights, and with re- 
gard to their guilt or innocence when they are 
charged with crimes. A great part of the bu- 
fmefs of the Judge, of Counfel at the bar, of 
the Hiftorian, the Critic, and the Antiquari- 
an, is to canvafs and weigh this kind of evi- 
dence ; and no man can a6t with common 
prudence in the ordinary occurrences of life, 
who has not fome competent judgment of it. 

The belief we give to teflimony in many ca- 
fes is not folely grounded upon the veracity of 
the teflifier. In a fmgle teftimony, we confi- 


c;98 ESSAY VII. 


CHAP, der the motives a man might have to falfify. 
'^- If there be no appearance of any fuch motive, 
' ^^ much more if there be motives on^ the other 
fide, his'teflin^ony has uieight independent of 
his moral charader. If the teilimony be cir- 
cumftantial, we confider how far the circum- 
ftanccs agree together, and with things that 
are known. It is fo very difficult to fabricate 
a flory, which cannot be detefted by a judici- 
ous examination of the circumftances, that it 
acquires evidence, by being able to bear fuch 
a triah There is an art in detetfing falfe evi- 
dence in judicial proceedings, well known to 
able judges and barriiters ; fo that I believe 
fev.' falfe witneifes leave the bar without fufpi- 
cion of their guilt. 

When there is an agreement of many wit- 
neifes, in a great variety of circumftances, 
without the pofTibility of a previous concert, 
the evidence may be equal to that of demon- 

A fecond kind of probable evidence, is the 
authority of thofe who are good judges of the 
point iri queflion.' 1 he fupreme court of ju- 
dicature of the Britifii nation,, is often deter- 
mined by the opinion of lawyers iri a point of 
law, of phyficians in a point of medicine, and 
of otiier ariifts, in what relates to their feveral 
profeffions. And, in the common affairs of 
life, we frequently rely upon the judgment of 
others, in points of which we are not proper 
judges ourielves. 

A third kind of probable evidence, is that 
by which we recognife the identity of things, 
and perfons of our acquaintance : That two 
fwords, two horfes, or two perfons, may be 
fo perfectly alike, as not to be diltinguifhable 



by thofe to whom they are befl: known, cannot C HAP. 
be fhown to be impoffible. But we learn either ^"• 
from nature, or from experience, that it never ^"^ 
happens ; or fo very rarely, that a perfon or 
thing, well known to us, is immediately re- 
cognifed without any doubt, when we per- 
ceive the marks or figns by which we were in 
ufe to diftinguifh it from all other individuals 
of the kind. 

This evidence we rely upon in the mofl im- 
portant affairs of Hfe ; and, by this evidence, 
the identity, both of things and of perfons, is 
determined in courts of judicature. 

A fourth kind of probable evidence, is that 
which we have of mens future actions and 
condudl, from the general principles of aclion 
in man, or from our knowledge of the indi- 

Notwithftanding the folly and vice that is to 
be found among men, there is a certain de- 
gree of prudence and probity which we rely 
upon in every man that is not infane. If it 
were not fo, no man would be fafe in the com- 
pany of another, and there could be no fociety 
among mankind. If men were as much dif- 
pofed to hurt as to do good, to lie as to fpeak 
truth, they could not live together j they would 
keep at as great diflance from one another as 
poffible, and the race would foon perifh. 

We expect that men will take fome care of 
themfelves, of their family, friends, and re- 
putation: That they will not injure others 
without fome temptation: That they will have . 
fome gratitude for good offices, and fome re- 
fentment of injuries. 

Such maxims v/ith regard to human con- 
duel are the foundation of all political reafon- 



C H A P. Jng, and of common prudence in the conduct 
of life. Rardly can a man form any projeft 
in public or in private life, which does not de- 
pend upon the conduct of other men, as well 
as his own, and which does not go upon the 
fuppofition that men will a£r fuch a part in fuch 
circumftances. This evidence may be pro- 
bable in a verv hio^h degree, but can never be 
demonftrative. The beft concerted project 
may fail, and wife counfels may be fruilrated, 
becaufe fome individual atted a part which it 
would have been againil all reafon to expect. 

Another kind of probable evidence, the 
counterpart of the laft, is that by which we 
collect mens characters and deligns from their 
actions, fpeech, and other external figns. 

We fee not mens hearts, nor the principles 
by which they are actuated ; but there are ex- 
ternal figns of their principles and difpofitions, 
which, though not certain, may fometimesbe 
more trufted than their profeffions ; and it is 
from external figns that v.-e muft draw all the 
knowledge we can attain of mens characters. 

The next kind of probable evidence I men- 
tion, is that which Mathematicians call the 
probability of chances. 

We attribute fome events to chance, becaufe 
we know only the remote caufe which mud 
produce fom.e one event of a number ; but 
know not the more immediate caufe which 
determines a particular event of that number 
in preference to the others. 

I think all the chances about which we rea- 
fon in mathematics are of this kind. Thus, 
in tiirowinc^ a juit die upon a table, we fay it 
is an equal chance which of the fix fides (liall 
be turned up : becaufe neither the perfon who 



throws, nor the byftanders know the preclfe C H A P. 
meafure of force and direciion neceflary to ,^1!^ 
turn up any one fide rather than another. 
There are here therefore fix events, one of 
which muft happen ; and as all are fuppofed to 
have equal probability, the probability of any 
one fide being turned up, the ace, for in- 
ftance, is as one to the remaining number 

The probability of turning up two aces 
with two dice is as one to thirty-five ; becaufe 
here there are thirty-fix events, each of which 
has equal probability. 

Upon fuch principles as thefe, the do6lrine 
of chances has furnifhed a field of demonflra- 
tive reafoning of great extent, although the 
events about which this reafoning is employed 
be not neceffary, but contingent, and be not 
certain, but probable. 

This may feem to contradict a principle be- 
fore advanced, that contingent truths are not 
capable of demonflration ; but it does not : 
For, in the mathematical reafonings about 
chance, the conclufion demonflirated, is not, 
that fuch an event fhall happen, but that the 
probability of its happening bears fuch a ratio 
to the probability of its failing ; and this con- 
clufion is neceffary upon the fuppofitions on 
which it is grounded. 

The lafl: kind of probable evidence i fhall 
mention, is that by which the known laws of 
Nature have been difcovered, and the effefts 
which have been produced by them in former 
ages, or which may be expeded in time to 

The laws of Nature are the rules by which 
the Supreme Being governs the world. We 

Vol. II. D d deduce 




CHAP, deduce them only from fafts that fall within 
• ^ our own obfervation, or are properly attefted 
by thofe who have obferved them. 

The knowledge of fome of the laws of Na- 
ture is neceifary to all men in the condudt of 
life. Thefe are foon difcovered even by fa- 
vages. They know that fire burns, that water 
drowns, that bodies gravitate towards the 
earth. They know that day and night, fum- 
mer and winter, regularly fucceed each other. 
As far back as their experience and informa- 
tion reach, they know that thefe have hap- 
pened regularly ; and, upon this ground, they 
are led, by the conftitution of human nature, 
to expeft that they will happen in time to come, 
in like circumftances. 

The knowledge which the Philofopher at- 
tains of the laws of Nature differs from that 
of the vulgar, not in the firfl principles on 
which it is grounded, but in its extent and ac- 
curacy. He collefts with care the phaenomena 
that lead to the fame conclufion, and compares 
them with thofe that feem to contradidl or to 
limit it. He obferves the circumftances on 
which every phtenomenon depends, and diftin- 
guifhes them carefully from thofe that are ac- 
cidentally conjoined with it. He puts natural 
bodies in various fituations, and applies them 
to one another in various ways, on purpofe to 
obferve the effed: ; and thus acquires from his 
fenfes a more extenfive knowledge of the 
courfe of Nature in a fliort time, than could 
be colle£led by cafual obfervation in many ages. 
But what is the refult of his laborious re- 
fearches? It is, that, as far as he has been able 
to obferve, fuch things have always happened 
in fuch circumftances, and fuch bodies have 



always been found to have fuch properties. ^ ^^ ^• 
Thefe are matters of fad, attefled by fenfe, , 
memory and teftimony, juft as the few fads 
which the vulgar know are attefled to them. 

And what conclufions does the Philofopher 
draw from the fads he has colledted? They 
are, that like events have happened in former 
times in Hke circumflances, and will happen 
in time to come ; and thefe conclufions are built 
on the very fame ground on which the fimple 
ruftic concludes that the fun will rife to-mor- 

Fads reduced to general rules, and the con- 
fequences of thofe general rules, are all that 
we really know of the material world. And 
the evidence that fuch general rules have no 
exceptions, as well as the evidence that they 
will be the fame in time to come as they have 
been in time paft, can never be demonftrative. 
It is only that fpecies of evidence which Philo- 
fophers call probable. General rules may have 
"exceptions or limitations which no man ever 
had occafion to obferve. The laws of Nature 
may be changed by him who eflabliflied them. 
But we are led by our conflitution to rely upon 
their continuance with as little doubt as if ij: 
was demonftrable. 

I pretend not to have made a complete enu- 
meration of all the kinds of probable evidence 5 
but thofe I have mentioned are fufficient to 
ihow, that jhe far greatefl: part, and the mod 
interefting part of our knowledge, mud reft 
upon evidence of this kind; and that many 
things are certain for which we have only that 
kind of evidence which Philofophers call pro- 

D d 2 CHAR 



'-^"^^^ CHAP. IV. 

Of Mr. Hume's Scepticifm with regard to 

IN the Treatife of Human Nature, book. i. 
part 4. fed:, i. the author undertakes to 
prove two points : Firji, That all that is called 
human knowledge (meaning demonftrative 
knowledge) is only probability; and, fecondly. 
That this probability, when duly examined, 
evanifhes by degrees, and leaves at laft no evi- 
dence at all : So that, in the iflue, there is no 
ground to believe any one proportion rather 
than its contrary, and " all thofe are certainly 
*' fools who reafon or believe any thing/* 

According to this account, reafon, that 
boafted prerogative of man, and the light of 
his mind, is an ignis fatuus^ which mifleads 
the wandering traveller, and leaves him at 
laft in abfolute darknefs. 

How unhappy is the condition of man, born 
under a neceflity of believing contradidlions, 
and of trufting to a guide who confelfes herfelf 
to be a falfe one ! 

It is feme comfort, that this dodrine can ne- 
ver be ferioufly adopted by any man in his 
fenfes. And after this author had fliown that 
" all the rules of logic require a total extindion 
" of all belief and evidence," he himfelf, and 
all men that are not infane, muft have believed 
many things, and yielded allentto the evidence 
which he had cxtinguifhed. 

This indeed he is fo candid as to acknow- 
ledge. " He finds himfelf abfolutely and nc- 

" celfarily 

Of Mr. Hume'j Scepticifm about Reafon, 405 

** ceflarily determined, to live and talk and CHAP. 
" a£t like other people in the common affairs ^^• 
*' of life. And fmce reafon is incapable of*" ^'"^^ 
" difpelling thefe clouds, mod fortunately it 
*' happens, that Nature herfelf fuffices to that 
*' purpofe, and cures him of this philofophical 
" melancholy and delirium." See feet. 7. 

This was furely a very kind and friendly 
interpofition of Nature ; for the effeds of this 
philofophical delirium, if carried into life, muft 
have been very melancholy. 

But what pity is it, that Nature (whatever 
is meant by that perfonage), fo kind in curing 
this delirium, fhould be fo cruel as to caufe it. 
Doth the fame fountain fend forth fweet waters 
and bitter? Is it not raore probable, that if 
the cure was the work of Nature, the difeafe 
came from another hand, and was the work of 
the Philofopher? 

To pretend to prove by reafoning that there 
is no force in reafon, does indeed look like a 
philofophical delirium. It is like a man's pre- 
tending to fee clearly, that he himfelf and all 
other men are blind. 

A common fympton of delirium is, to thiijk 
that all other men are fools or mad. This ap^ 
pears to have been the cafe of our author, who 
concluded, " That all thofe are certainly fools 
" who reafon or believe any thing.'* 

Whatever was the caufc of this delirium, 
it muft be granted, that if it was real and not 
feigned, it was not to be cured by reafoning : 
For what can be more abfurd than to at- 
tempt to convince a man by reafoning who 
difowns the authority of reafon. It was there- 
fore v&ry fortunate that Nature found other 
means of curing it. 





It may, however, not be improper to en- 
quire, whether, as the author thinks, it was 
produced by a juft application of the rules of 
logic, or, as others may be apt to think, by 
the mifapplication and abufe of them. 

Firji^ Becaufe we are fallible, the author in- 
fers that all knowledge degenerates into pro- 

That man, and probably every created be- 
ing, is fallible; and that a fallible being can- 
not have that perfect comprehenfion and aflu- 
rance of truth which an infallible being has, 
I think ought to be granted. It becomes a 
fallible being to be modeft, open to new light, 
and fenfible, that by fome falfe bias, or by 
rafh judging, he may be mifled. If this be 
called a degree of fcepticifm, I cannot help 
approving of it, being perfuaded, that the man 
who makes the bed ufe he can of the faculties 
which God has given him, without thinking 
them more perfect than they really are, may 
have all the belief that is neceflary in the con- 
duct of life, and all that is neceflary to his ac- 
ceptance with his Maker. 

It is granted then, that human judgments 
ought always to be formed with an humble 
fenfe of our fallibility in judging. 

This is all that can be inferred by the rules 
of logic from our being fallible. And if this 
be all that is meant by our knowledge degene- 
rating into probabiHty, I know no perfon of a 
different opinion. 

But it may be obferved, that the author 
here ufes the word probability in a fenfe for 
which I know no authority but his own. Philo- 
fophers underftand probability as oppofed to 
demonifration ; the vulgar as oppofed to cer- 

Of Mr. Hume's Scepticifju about Reafon. 407 

tainty; but this author underflands itasop-CHAP. 
pofed to infallibility, which no man claims. 

One who believes himfelf to be fallible 
may ftill hold it to be certain that two and two 
mrke four, and that two contradiftory pro- 
pofitions cannot both be true. He may be- 
lieve fome things to be probable only, and 
other things to be demonftrable, without mak- 
ing any pretence to infallibility. 

If we ufe words in their proper meaning, 
it is impoflible that demonftration fhould de- 
generate into probability from the imperfedli- 
on of our faculties. Our judgment cannot 
change the nature of the things about which 
we judge. What is really demonftration, will 
ftill be fo, whatever judgment we form con- 
cerning it. It may likewife be obferved, that 
when we miftake that for demonftration, 
which really is not, the confequence of this 
miftake is, not that demonftration degenerates 
into probability, but that what we took to be 
demonftration is no proof at all ; for one falfe 
ftep in a demonftration deftroys the whole, 
but cannot turn it into another kind of proof.' 

Upon the whole, then, this firft conclufion 
of our author. That the fallibility of human 
judgment turns all knowledge into probability, 
if underftood literally, is abfurd; but if it be 
only a figure of fpeech, and means no more, 
but that, in all our judgments, we ought to 
be fenfible of our faUibility, and ought to 
hold our opinions with that modefty that be- 
comes fallible creatures, which I take to be 
what the author meant, this, I think, nobody 
denies, nor was it neceffary to enter into a la- 
borious proof of it. 



One is never in greater danger of tranfgref- 
fing agaiaft the rules of logic, than in attempt- 
ing to prove what needs no proof. Of this 
we have an inflance in this very cafe : For the 
author begins his proof, that all human judg- 
ments are fallible, with affirming that fome 
are infallible. 

" In all demonftrative fciences, fays he, 
" the rules are certain and infallible ; but 
" when we apply them, our fallible and un- 
" certain faculties are very apt to depart from 
" them, and fall into error." 

He had forgot, furely, that the rules of de- 
monftrative fciences are dilcovered by our fal- 
lible and uncertain faculties, and have no au- 
thority but that of human judgment. If they 
be infallible, fome human judgments are infal- 
lible ; and there are many in various branches 
of human knowledge which have as good a 
claim to infallibility as the rules of the demon- 
ftrative fciences. 

We have reafon here to find fault with our 
author for not being fceptical enough, as well 
as for a miftake in reafoning, when he claims 
infallibility to certain decifions of the human 
faculties, in order to prove that all their deci- 
fions are fallible. 

The fecond "^o'mt which he attempts to prove, 
is, That this probability, when duly examin- 
ed, fuffers a continual diminution, and at laft 
a total extinction. 

The obvious confequence of this is, that no 
fallible being can have good reafon to believe 
any thing at all ; but let us hear the proof. 
" In every judgment, we ought to correct the 
'* firft judgment derived from the nature of 
" the obje£t, by another judgment derived 

" from 

Of Mr. Hume'j Scepticifm about Reafon. 409 

from the nature of the underftanding. Be-C HAP. 
fuie the original uncertainty inherent in the * 
fubjett, there arifes another, derived from 
the weaknefs of the faculty which judges. 
Having adjufted thefe two uncertainties to- 

' gether, we are obliged, by our reafon, to 
add a new uncertainty, derived from the 
pollibility of error in the efhimation we make 

' of the truth and fidelity of our faculties. 

• This is a doubt, of which, if we would 
' clofely purfue our realoning, we cannot 

• avoid giving a decifion. But this decifion, 
' though it fliould be favourable to our pre- 
' ceding judgment, being founded only on 
' probability, mufl weaken flill farther our 
' firfl evidence. The third uncertainty muft 
' in like manner be criticifed by a fourth, 
' and fo on without end. 

" Now, as every one of thefe uncertainties 
' takes away a part of the original evidence, 
' it muft at laft be reduced to nothing. Let 
' our firft belief be ever fo ftrong, it muft in- 
' fallibly perifti, by pafting through fo many 
' examinations, each of which carries off 
' fomewhat of its force and vigour. No fi- 
' nite objed can fubfift under a decreafe re- 
•' peated in infinitum. 

" When I refleO: on the natural fallibility 
■' of my judgment, I have lefs confidence in 
" my opinions, than when I only confider the 
" objefts concerning which I reafon. And 
" when I proceed ftill farther, to turn the 
" fcrutiny againft every fucceflive eftimation 
" I make of my faculties, all the rules of logic 
" require a continual diminution, and at laft 
" a total extinction of belief and evidence." 


41 o ESSAY VII. 

This is the author's Achillean argument 
againll the evidence of reafon, from which he 
concludes, that a man who would govern his 
belief by reafon, mufl believe nothing at all, 
and that belief is an acl, not of the cogitative, 
but of the fenfitive part of our nature. 

If there be any fuch thing as motion, (faid 
an antient Sceptic) the fwift-footed Achilles 
could never overtake an old man in a journey. 
For, fuppofe the old man to fet out a thoufand 
paces before AcHir>LES, and that while 
Achilles has travelled the thoufand paces, 
the old man has gone five hundred ; when 
Achilles has gone the five hundred, the old 
man has gone two hundred and fifty ; and 
"when Achilles has gone the two hundred 
and fifty, the old man is ftill one hundred and 
twenty-five before him. Repeat thefe eftima- 
tions in bifinitiwi, and you will ftill find the 
old man foremoft ; therefore Achilles can 
never overtake him ; therefore there can be no 
fuch thing as motion. 

The reafoning of the modern Sceptic againfl 
reafon is equally ingenious, and equally con- 
vincing. Indeed, they have a great fimilari- 

If we trace the journey of Achilles two 
thoufand paces, we Ihall find the very point 
where the old man is overtaken : But this 
(hort journey, by dividing it into an infinite 
number of ft ages, with correfponding eftima- 
tions, is made to appear infinite. In like 
manner, our author, fubjefting every judg- 
ment to an infinite number of fucceffive proba- 
ble eftimations, reduces the evidence to no- 


Of Mr. Hume's Scepticif?n about P^eafon. 4^ ^ 

To return then to the argument of the mo-^ ^ J^ ' 
dern Sceptic. I examine the proof of a thco- __ ^'_^^_^ 
rem of Euclid. It appears to me to be flri£l 
Jemonftration. But I may have overlooked 
fome fallacy ; therefore I examine it again and 
again, but can fmd no flaw in it. I find all 
that have examined it agree with me. I have 
now that evidence of the truth of the propofi- 
tion, which I and all men call demonftration, 
and that belief of it, which we call certainty. 

Here my fceptical friend interpofes, and af- 
fures me, that the rules of logic reduce this de- 
monftration to no evidence at all. I am wil- 
ling to hear what flep in it bethinks fallacious, 
and why. He makes no objection to any part 
of the demonftration, but pleads my fallibility 
in judging. 1 have made the proper allowance 
for this already, by being open to convidlion. 
But, fays he, there are two uncertainties, the 
firft: inherent in the fubjecl, which I have al- 
ready fhown to have only probable evidence ; 
the fecond ariftng from the weaknefs of the fa- 
culty that judges. I anfwer, It is the weak- 
nefs of the facjilty only that reduces this de- 
monftration to what you call probability. You 
muft not therefore make it a fecond uncer- 
tainty ; for it is the fame with the firft. To 
take credit twice in an account for the fame 
article is not agreeable to the rules of logic. 
Hitherto therefore there is but one uncertain- 
ty, to wit, my fallibility in judging. 

But, fays my friend, you are obliged by 
reafon to add a new uncertainty, derived from 
the poftibility of error in the eftimation you 
make of the truth and fidelity of your facul- 
ties. I anfwer, 


412 ESSAY Vn. 

CHAP. This eflimation Is ambiguoully exprefled ; 
^^' it may either mean an eitimation of my liable- 
nefs to err by the mlfapplication and abufe of 
my faculties ; or it may mean an eftimation of 
my liablenefs to err, by conceiving my facul- 
ties to be true and faithful, while they may be 
falfe and fallacious in themfelves, even when 
applied in the beft manner. I (hall confider 
this eftimation in each of thefe fenfes. 

If the firft be the eftimation meant, it is true 
that reafon direds us, as fallible creatures, to 
carry along with us, in all our judgments, a 
fenfe of our fallibility. It is true alfo, that we 
are in greater danger of erring in fome cafes, 
and lefs in others ; and that this danger of er- 
ring may, according to the circumftances of 
the cafe, admit of an eftimation, which we 
ought likewife to carry along with us in every 
judgment we form. 

When a demonftration is lliort and plain ; 
when the point to be proved does not touch 
our intereft or our paifions ; when the faculty 
of judging, in fuch cafes, has acquired ftrength 
by much exercife, there is lefs danger of er- 
ring ; when the contrary circumftances takg 
place, there is more. 

In the prefent cafe, every circumftance is 
favourable to the judgment I have formed. 
There cannot be lefs danger of erring in any 
cafe, excepting perhaps when I judge of a felf- 
evident axiom. 

The Sceptic farther urges, that this decifi- 
on, though favourable to my firft judgment, 
being founded only on probability, muft ftill 
weaken the evidence of that judgment. 

Here 1 cannot help being of a quite contrary 
opinion, nor can I imagine how an ingenious 


Of Mr. HuME*j Scepildfm about Reafon. 413 

author could impofe upon himfelf fo grofsly,C H A P, 
for furely he did not intend to impofe upon his ^^• 
reader. ^' ' 

After repeated examination of a propofition 
of Euclid, I judge it to be flri6lly demonftra- 
ted ; this is my firfl judgment. But as I am 
liable to err from various caufes, I confider how 
far I may have been mifled by any of thcfe 
caufes in this judgment. My decifion upon 
this fecond point is favourable to my firfl judg- 
ment, and therefore as I apprehend, mufl 
flrengthen it. To fay, that this decifion, be- 
caufe it is only probable, mufl weaken the firfl 
evidence, feems to me contrary to all rules 
of logic, and to common fenfe. 

The firfl judgment may be compared to the 
teflimony of a credible witnefs ; the fecond, 
after a fcrutiny into the character of the wit- 
nefs, wipes off every objedlion that can be 
made to it, and therefore furely mufl confirm 
and not weaken his teflimony. 

But let us fuppofe, that, in another cafe, I 
examine my firfl judgment upon fome point, 
and find, that it was attended with unfavoura- 
ble circumflances, what, in reafon, and ac- 
cording to the rules of logic, ought to be the 
efFe£l of this difcovery ? 

The efFed furely will be, and ought to be, 
to make me lefs confident in my firfl judgment, 
until I examine the point anew in more fa- 
vourable circumflances. If it be a matter of im- 
portance I return to weigh the evidence of my 
firfl judgment. If it was precipitate before, it 
mufl now be deliberate in every point. If at 
firfl I was in pafTion, I mufl now be cool. If 
I had an interefl in the decifion, I mufl place 
the interefl on the other fide. 


414 ESSAY Vll. 

P- It is evident, that this review of the fubjeft 
may confirm my firfh judgment, notv^^ithftand- 
ing the fufpicious circumllances that attended 
it. Though the judge was biafled or corrupted, 
it does not follow, that the fentence was un- 
juft. The rectitude of the decifion does not 
depend upon the character of the judge, but 
upon the nature of the cafe. From that only, 
it mud be determined whether the decifion be 
jult. The circumftances that rendered it fuf- 
picious are mere prefumptions, which have no 
force againfl direct evidence. 

Thus, I have confidered the effect of this 
eflimation of our liablenefs to err in our firfl 
judgment, and have allowed to it all the effedt 
that reafon and the rules of logic permit. In 
the cafe I firft fupppofed, and in every cafe 
where we can difcover no caufe of error, it 
affords a prefumption in favour of the firft 
judgment. In other cafes, it may afford a pre- 
fumption againfl it. But the rules of logic re- 
quire, that we fhould not judge by prefump- 
tions, where we have diredt evidence. The 
effect of an unfavourable prefumption fhould 
only be, to make us examine the evidence 
with the greater care. 

The Sceptic urges, in the lafl place, that 
this eftimation muft t>e fubjected to another 
effimation, that to another, and fo on /;z infi- 
nitum ; and as every new eflimation takes away 
from the evidence of the firft judgment, it muft 
at laft be totally annihilated. 

I anfwer, firjl^ it. has been fhown above, 
that the firft eftimation, fuppofmg it unfa- 
vourable, can only afford a prefumption againft 
the firft judgment ; the fecond, upon the fame 
fuppofition, will be only the prefumption of a 


Of Mr. Hume's Scepticifm about Reafon» 415 

prefumptlon ; and the third, the prefumption C H A P. 
that there is a prefumption of a prefumption. ^^•'^• 
This infinite feries of prefumptions refembles 
an infinite feries of quantities decreafing in 
geometrical proportion, which amounts only 
to a finite fum. The infinite feries of ftages 
of AcHiLLEs's journey after the old man, 
amounts only to two thoufand paces ; nor can 
this infinite feries of prefumptions, outweigh 
one folid argument in favour of the firft judg- 
ment, fuppofing them all to be unfavourable 
to it. 

Secondly^ I have (hown, that the eftimation 
of our firft judgment may ftrengthen it ; and 
the fame thing may be faid of all the fubfequent 
eftimations. It v/ould, therefore, be as rea- 
fonable to conclude, that the firft judgment 
will be brought to infallible certainty v/hen this 
feries of eftimations is wholly in its favour, as 
that its evidence will be brought to nothing by 
fuch a feries fuppofed to be wholly unfavoura- 
ble to it. But, in reality, one ferious and 
cool re-examination of the evidence by which 
our firft judgment is fupported, has, and, in 
reafon, ought to have more force to ftrengthen 
or weaken it, than an infinite feries of fuch 
eftimations as our author requires. 

Thirdly^ I know no reafon nor rule in logic, 
that requires that fuch a feries of eftimations 
fhould follow every particular judgment. 

A wife man who has praclifed reafoning 
knows that he is fallible, and carries this con- 
vidion along with him in every judgment he 
forms. He knows likewife that he is more 
liable to err in fome cafes than in others. He 
has a fcalc in his mind, by which he eftimates 
his liablenefs to err, and by this he regulates 



C H A P. the degree of his aflent in his firft judgment 
upon any point. 
^"''"^''"^^ The author's rcafoning fuppofcs that a man, 
when he forms his hrft judgment, conceives 
himfelf to be infaHible ; that by a fecond and 
fubfequent judgment, he difcovers that he is 
not infallible ; and that by a third judgment, 
fubfequent to the fecond, he eflimates his lia- 
blenefs to err in fuch a cafe as the prefent. . 

If the man proceed in this order, I grant, 
that his fecond judgment will, with good rea- 
fon, bring down the firft from fuppofed infalli- 
bility to fallibility ; and that his third judgment 
will, in fome degree, either ftrengthen or 
weaken the firif, as it is correded by the 

But every man of underftanding proceeds in 
a contrary order. When about to judge in any 
particular point, he knows already that he is 
not infallible. He knows what are the cafes in 
which he is mod or lead liable to err. The 
conviction of thefe things is always prefent to 
his mind, and influences the degree of his affent 
in his firft judgment, as far as to him appears 

If he fliould afterwards find reafon to fufpe£t 
his firft judgment, and defires to have all the 
fatisfaction his faculties can give, reafon will 
dire£t him not to form fuch a feries of eftima- 
tions upon eftimations, as this author requires, 
but to examine the evidence of his firft judg- 
ment carefully and coolly ; and this review 
may very reafonably, according to its refult, 
either ftrengthen or weaken, or totally over- 
turn his firft judgment. 

This infinite feries of eftimations, therefore, 
is not the method that reafon directs in order 


Of Mr. Hume's Scepticiftn about Reafori. 41 y 

to form our judgment in any cafe. It is intro- CHAP, 
duced without neceility, without any ufe but ^^^" 
to puzzle the underftanding, and to make us 
think, that to judge, even in the fimplefl and 
plained cafes, is a matter of infurmcuntable 
difficulty and endlefs labour; juft as the anci- 
ent Sceptic, to make a journey of two thoafand 
paces appear endlefs, divided it into an infinite 
number of ftages. 

But we obferved, that the eftimation which 
our author requires may admit of another 
meaning, which indeed is more agreeable to 
the expreffion, but inconfiftent with what he 
advanced before. 

By the poilibility of error in the eflimation 
of the truth and fidelity of our faculties, may 
be meant, that we may err by efteeming our 
faculties true and faithful, while they niay be 
falfe and fallacious, even when ufed according 
to the rules of reafon and logic. 

If this be meant, I anfwer, j^r/?. That the 
truth and fidelity of our faculty of judging is, 
and rnuft be taken for granted in every judg- 
ment and in everv eftimation. 

If the Sceptic can ferioufly doubt of the 
truth and fidelity of his faculty of judging 
when properly ufed, and fufpend his judgment 
upon that point till he finds proof, his fcepti- 
cilm admits of no cure by reafoning, and he 
muft even continue in it until he have new 
faculties given him, which fliall have authority 
to fit in judgment upon the old. Nor is there 
any need of an endlefs fucceffion of doubts 
upon this fubjeft, for the firft puts an end to 
all judgment and reafoning, and to the poilibi- 
lity of convidion by that means. The Sceptic 
has here got pofleilion of a ftrong hold which 

Vol. II. E e is 

41 8 ESSAY VII. 

C H A P. is impregnable to reafoning, and we mufl leave 
^^' him in poflefiion of it, till Nature, by other 
means, makes him give it up. 

Secondly, I obferve, that this ground of 
fcepticifm, from the fuppofed infidelity of our 
faculties, contradicls what the author before 
advanced in this very argument, to wit, that 
*' the rules of the demonftrative fciences are 
" certain and infallible, and that truth is the 
" natural efled of reafon, and that error arifes 
" from the irruption of other caufes." 

But perhaps he made thefe conceffions un- 
warily. He is therefore at liberty to retrad: 
them, and to reft his fcepticifm upon this fole 
foundation. That no reafoning can prove the 
truth and fidelity of our faculties. Here he 
ftands upon firm ground: For it is evident, 
that every argument offered to prove the truth 
and fidelity of our faculties, takes for granted 
the thing in queftion, and is therefore that 
kind of jophifm, which Logicians call petitio 

All we would afk of this kind of Sceptic is, 
that he would be uniform and confiftent, and 
that his pradice in life do not belie his pro- 
feffion of Scepticifm with regard to the fidelity 
of his faculties: For the want of faith, as well 
as faith itfelf, is beft fliown by works. If a 
Sceptic avoid the fire as much as thofe who 
believe it dangerous to go into it, we can 
hardly avoid thinking his fcepticifm to be 
feigned ,2nd not real. 

Our author indeed was aware, that neither 
his fcepticifm, nor that 6f any other perfon, 
was able to endure this trial, and therefore 
enters a caveat againft it. " Neither I, fays 
*' he, nor any other perfon, was ever fincerely 

" and 

Of Mr. Hume's Scepticifri about Reafon. 419 

" and conftantly of that opinion. Nature, CHAP. 

" by an abfolute and uncontrollable neceffity, jXr-^ 

" has determined us to judge, as well as to 

" bi;eathe and feel. My intention, therefore, 

** fays he, in difplaying fo carefully the argu- 

*' ments of that fantaftic fed, is only to make 

" the reader fenfible of the truth of my hypo- 

*' thefis, that all our reafonings concerning 

*' caufes and cffedls, are derived frgm nothing 

" butcuflom, and that belief is more properly 

*' an aft of the fenfitive than of the cogita- 

" tive part of our nature." 

We have before confidered the firft part of 
this hypothefis. Whether our reafoning about 
caufes be derived only from cuflom? 

The other part of the author's hypothefis 
here mentioned is darkly exprefled, though 
the expreffion feems to be fludied, as it is put 
in Italics. It cannot furely mean that belief is 
not an aft of thinking. It is not, therefore, 
the power of thinking that he calls the cogita-^ ' 
tive part of our nature. Neither can it be the 
power of judging, for all belief implies judg- 
ment ; and to believe a proportion means the 
fame thing as to judge it to be true. It feems, 
therefore, to be the power of reafoning that 
he calls the cogitative part of our nature. 

If this be the meaning, I agree to it in part. 
The belief of firft principles is not an aft of 
the reafoning power : For all reafoning mufl 
be grounded upon them. We judge them to 
be true, and believe them without reafoning. 
But why this power of judging of firft princi- 
ples fhould be called the fenfitive part of our 
nature, I do not underftand. 

As our belief of firft principles is an aft of 

pure judgment without reafoning j fo our be- 

E e 2 lief 



CHAP, lief of the conclufions drawn by reafonlng 
^^- from firfl: principles, may, 1 think, be called 

^^"""^"^ an a6l of the-reafoning faculty. 

Upon the whole, I fee only two conclufions 
that can be fairly drawn from this profound 
and intricate reafoning againfl reafon. The 
firft is. That we are fallible in all our judg- 
ments and in all our reafonings. The fecond. 
That the truth and fidelity of our faculties can 
never be proved by reafoning ; and therefore 
our belief of it cannot be founded on reafoning. 
If thelaft be what the author calls his hypothe- 
fis, I fubfcribe to it, and think it not an hy- 
pothefis, but a manifeft truth ; though I con- 
ceive it to be very improperly exprefled, by 
faying that belief is more properly an ad of 
the fenfitive than of the cogitative part of our 






Of Tqfte in generaL 

THAT power of the mind by which we 
are capable of difcerning and reliftiing 
the beauties of Nature, and whatever is excel- 
lent in the fine arts, is called tq/i^e. 

The external fenfeof tafte, by which we dif- 
tinguifh and relifh the various kinds of food, 
has given occaiion to a metaphorical application 
of its name to this internal power of the mind, 
by which we perceive what is beautiful, and 
what is deformed or defedive in the various 
objefts that we contemplate. 

Like the tafte of the palate, it relifhes fome 
things, is difgufted with others ; with regard 
to many, is indifferent or dubious, and is con- 
fiderably influenced by habit, by alfociations, 
and by opinion. Thefe obvious analogies be- 
tween external and internal tafte, have led 
men, in all ages, and in all or moft pohfhed 
languages, to give the name of the external 
fenfe to this power of difcerning what is beau- 
tiful with pleafure, and what is ugly and faulty 
in its kind with difguft. 



CHAP. In treating of this as an intelle£tual power of 
,^^^V_^ the mind, I intend only to make fome obfer- 
vations, firfl on its nature, and then on its 

I. In the external fenfe of tafte, we are led 
by reafon and refleftion to diflinguilh between 
the agreeable fenfation we feel, and the quality 
in the objed which occafions it. Both have 
the fame name, and on that account are apt to 
be confounded by the vulgar, and even by 
Philofophers. The fenfation I feel when I tafte 
any fapid body is in my mind ; but there is a 
real quality in the body which is the caufe of 
this fenfation. Thefe two things have the fame 
name in language, not from any fimilitude in 
their nature, but becaufe the one is the fign of 
the other, and becaufe there is little occafion 
in common life to diftinguiih them. 

This was fully explained in treating of the 
fecondary qualities of bodies. The reafon of 
taking notice of it now is, that the internal 
power of tafte bears a great analogy in this 
refpect to the external. 

When a beautiful objed is before us, we 
may diftinguifh the agreeable emotion it pro- 
duces in us, from the quality of the objed 
which caufes that emotion. When I hear an 
air in mufic that pleafes me, I fay, it is fine, it 
is excellent. This excellence is not in me ; it 
is in the mufic. But the pleafure it gives is not in 
the mufic ; it is in me. Perhaps I cannot fay 
what it is in the tune that pleafes my ear, as I 
cannot fay what it is in a fapid body that pleafes 
my palate ; but there is a quahty in the fapid 
body which pleafes my palate, and I call it a 
delicious tafte ; and there is a quahty in the 
tune that pleafes my tafte, and I call it a fine or 
an excellent air. 



This ought the rather to be obferved, be-C HAP. 
caufe it is become a fafliion among modern ^* 
Philofophcrs, to refolvc all our perceptions into ' 
mere feelings or fenfations in the perfon that 
perceives, without any thing correfponding to 
thofe feelings in the external objeft. Accord- 
ing to thofe Philofophers, there is no heat in 
the fire, no tafte in a fapid body ; the tafte 
and the heat being only in the perfon that feels 
them. In like manner, there is no beauty in 
any object whatfoever ; it is only a fenfation or 
feeling in the perfon that perceives it. 

The language and the common fenfe of 
mankind contradict this theory. Even thofe 
who hold it, find themfelves obliged to ufe a 
language that contradicts it. I had occafion 
to fhow, that there is no folid foundation for 
it when applied to the fecondary qualities of 
body ; and the fame arguments fhow equally, 
that it has no folid foundation when applied to 
the beauty of objects, or to any of thofe qua- 
lities that are perceived by a good tafte. 

But though fome of the qualities that pleafe 
a good talte rcfemble the fecondary qualities 
of body, and therefore may be called occult 
qualities, as we only feel their effect, and have 
no more knowledge of the caufc, but that it is 
fomething which is adapted by Nature to pro- 
duce that effect ; this is not always the cafe. 

Our judgment of beauty is in many cafes 
more enlightened. A work of art may appear 
beautiful to the mofl ignorant, even to a child. 
It pleafes, but he knows not why. To one 
who underftands it perfectly, and perceives 
how every part is fitted with exact judgment to 
its end, the beauty is not myfterious ; it is per- 
fectly comprehended ; and he knows wherein 
it confifts, as well as how it affeds him. 

2. Wc 


2. Wc may obferve, that, though all the 
tafles we perceive by the palate are either agree- 
able or difagreeable, or indifferent ; yet, 
among thofe that are agreeable, there is great 
diverlity, not in degree only, but in kind. 
And as we have not generical names for all 
the different kinds of tafle, we diftinguifh them 
by the bodies in which they are found. 

In like manner, all the objeds of our inter- 
nal tafle are either beautiful, or difagreeable, 
or indiuerent ; yet of beauty there is a great 
diverfity, not only of degree, but of kind : 
The beauty of a demonfl ration, the beauty of 
a poem, the beauty of a palace, the beauty of 
apiece of mufic, the beauty of a fine woman, 
and many more that might be named, are 
different kinds of beauty ; ana we have no 
names to diftinguifh them but the names of 
the different objefts to which they belong. 

As there is fuch diverfity in the kinds of 
beauty as well as in the degrees, we need not 
think it ftrange that Philofophers have gone in- 
to difl'erent fyflems in analyfing it, and enu- 
merating its fimple ingredients. They have 
made many jufl obfervations on the fubjeft ; 
but, from the love of fimplicity, have reduced 
it to fewer principles than the nature of the 
thing v- ill permit, having had in their eye forne 
particular kinds of beauty, Awhile they over- 
looked others. 

There are moral beauties as well as natural ; 
beauties in the objeds of fenfe, and in intel- 
lectual objedls ; in the works of men, and in 
the works of God ; in things inanimate, in 
brute animals, and in rational beings ; in the 
conflitution of the body of man, and in the 
conftitution of his mind. There is no real 




excellence which has not its beauty to a difcern- CHAP, 
ing eye, when placed in a proper point of ^ ^• 
view ; and it is as difficult to enumerate the 
ingredients of beauty as the ingredients of 
real excellence. 

3. The tafte of the palate may be accounted 
moft jufl and perfeti, when we relifh the 
things that are fit for the nourifhment of the 
body, and are difgufted with things of a con- 
trary nature. The manifeft intention of Na- 
ture in giving us this fenfe, is, that we may 
difcern what it is fit for us to eat and to drink, 
and what it is not. Brute animals are direded 
in the choice of their food merely by their 
tafte. Led by this guide, they chufe the food 
that Nature intended for them, and feldom 
make miftakes, unlefs they be pinched by 
hunger, or deceived by artificial compofi- 
tions. In infants likewife the tafte is com- 
monly found and uncorrupted, and of the 
fimple productions of Nature they relifli the 
things that are moft wholefome. 

In like manner, our internal tafte ought to 
be accounted moft juft and perfect, when we 
are pleafed with things that are moft excellent 
in their kind, and difpleafed with the contrary. 
The intention of Nature is no lefs evident in 
this internal tafte than in the external. Every 
excellence has a real beauty and charm that 
makes it an agreeable object to thofe who have 
the faculty of difcerning its beauty ; and this 
faculty is what we call a good tafte. 

A man, who, by any diforder in his mental 
powers, or by bad habits, has contraQed a 
relifti for what has no real excellence, or 
what is deformed and defedlive, has a depra- 
ved tafte, like one who finds a more agreeable 



CHAP, relidi In afhes or cinders than in the moft 
■wholefome food. As we muft acknowledge 
the tafte of the palate to be depraved in this 
cafe, there is the fame reafonto think the tafte 
of the mind depraved in the other. 

There is therefore a juft and rational tafl:e, 
and there is a depraved and corrupted tafte. 
For it is too evident, that, by bad education, 
bad habits, and wrong aflbclations, men may 
acquire a relifh for naftinefs, for rudenefs, 
and ill breeding, and for many other deformi- 
ties. To fay that fuch a tafte is not vitiated, 
is no lefs abfurd than to fay, that the fickly 
girl who delights in eating charcoal and tobac- 
co-pipes, has as juft and natural a tafte as when 
ftie is in perfed: health. 

4. The force of cuftom, of fancy, and of 
cafual afTociations, is very great both upon the 
external and internal tafte. An Eikimauxcan 
regale himfelf with a draught of whale-oil, and 
a Canadian can feaft upon a dog. A Kamf- 
chatkadale lives upon putrid fift», and is fome- 
times reduced to eat the bark of trees. The 
tafte of rum, or of green tea, is at firft as nau- 
fcous as that of ipecacuan, to fome perfons, 
who may be brought by ufe to relifn what they 
once found fo difagreeable. 

When we fee fuch varieties In the tafte of 
the palate produced by cuftom and afTociations, 
and fome peihaps by conftitution, we may be 
the lefs furprifed that the fame caufes faould 
produce like varieties in the tafte of beauty ; 
that the African fhould efteem thick lips and a 
flat nofe ; that other nations fhould draw out 
theiV ears, till they hang over their fhoulders ; 
that in one nation ladies fhould paint their 



faces, and in another fhould make them fiiineC H A P. 
with greafe. 

•5. Thofe who conceive that there is no 
ftandard in nature by which taite may be re- 
gulated, and that the common proverb. That 
there ought to be no difpute about tafle, is to 
be taken in the utmofl latitude, go upon flen- 
der and infufficient ground. The fame argu- 
ments might be ufed with equal force againfl: 
any ftandard of truth. 

Whole nations by the force of prejudice are 
brought to believe the grofleft abfurdities ; and 
why fhould it be thought that the tafte is lefs 
capable of being perverted than the judgment? 
It muft indeed be acknowledged, that men 
differ more in the faculty of tafte than in what 
we commonly call judgment ; and therefore it 
may be expected that they fhould be more lia- 
ble to have their tafte corrupted in matters of 
beauty and deformity, than their judgment in 
matters of truth and error. 

If we make due allowance for this, wc (hall 
fee that it is as eafy to account for the variety 
of taftes, though there be in nature a ftandard 
of true beauty, and confequently of good tafte ; 
as it is to account for the variety and contrari- 
ety of opinions, though there be in nature a 
ftandard of truth, and confequently of right 

6. Nay, if we fpeak accurately and ftriclly, 
we fhall find, that, in every operation of tafte, 
there is judgment implied. 

When a man pronounces a poem or a palace 
to be beautiful, he affirms fomething of that 
poem or that palace ; and every affirmation or 
denial expreffes judgment. For we cannot 
better define judgment, than by faying that it 



C H A P. is an affirmation or denial of one thing con- 
cerning another. I had occafion to fhow, 
^'^'^^ when treating of judgment, that it is implied 
in every perception of our external fenfes. 
There is an immediate convidion and belief of 
theexiilence of the quality perceived, whether 
it be colour, or found, or figure ; and the 
fame thing holds in the perception of beauty 
or deformity. 

If it be faid that the perception of beauty is 
merely a feeling in the mind that perceives, 
without any belief of excellence in the objed, 
the neceflary confequence of this opinion is, 
that vi?hen 1 fay Virgii/s Georgics is a beau- 
tiful poem, I mean not to fay any thing of the 
poem, but only fomething concerning myfelf 
and my feelings. Why fhould I ufe a language 
that expreffes the contrary of what 1 mean ? 

My language, according to the neceflary 
rules of conftrudion, can bear no other mean- 
ing but this, that there is fomething in the 
poem, and not in me', which I call beauty. 
Even thefe who hold beauty to be merely a 
feeling in the perfon that perceives it, find 
themfelves under a neceflity of exprefling them- 
felves, as if beauty were folely a quality of the 
objed, and not of the percipient. 

No reafon can be given why all mankind 
{hould exprefs themfelves thus, but that they 
believe what they fay. It is therefore contra- 
ry to the univerfal fenfe of mankind, exprelT- 
cd by their language, that beauty is not really 
in the objed, but is merely a feeling in the 
perfon who is faid to perceive it. Philofo- 
phers fhould be very cautious in oppofing the 
common fenfe of mankind ; for, when they do, 
they rarely mifs going wrong. 



Our judgment of beauty is not indeed a dryC II A P. 
and unafteding judgment, like that of a ma- 
thematical or metaphyfical truth. By the con- 
ftitution of our nature, it is accompanied with 
an agreeable feeling or emotion, for which we 
have no other name but the fenfe of beauty. 
This fenfe of beauty, like the perceptions of 
our other fenfes, implies not only a feeling, 
but an opinion of fome quahty in the object 
which occafions that feeling. 

In objeds that pleafe the tafte, we always 
judge that there is fome real excellence, fome 
fuperiority to thofe that do not pleafe. In fome 
cafes, that fuperior excellence is diftinftly 
perceived, and can be pointed out ; in other 
cafes, we have only a general notion of fome 
excellence which we cannot defcribe. Beau-^ 
ties of the former kind may be compared to 
the primary qualities perceived by the external 
fenfes ; thofe of the latter kind, to the fecon- 

7. Beauty or deformity in an object, refults 
from its nature or flrudture. To perceive the 
beauty therefore, we muft perceive the nature 
or ftrudlure from which it refults. In this the 
internal fenfe differs from the external. Our 
external fenfes may difcover qualities which do 
not depend upon any antecedent perception. 
Thus I can hear the found of a bell, thoufrh I 
never perceived any thing elfe belonging to it. 
But it is impofTible to perceive the beauty of 
an obje£t without perceiving the objeft, or at 
leaft conceiving it. On this account. Dr. 
HuTCHESoN called the fenfes of beauty and 
harmony reflex or fecondary fenfes ; becaufe 
the beauty cannot be perceived unlefs the 
objed be perceived by fome other power 
of the mind. Thus the fcnfc of harmo- 


C H A P. ny and melody in founds fuppofes the external 
"^ ^enfe of hearing, and is a kind of feccndary 
to it. A man born deaf may be a good judge 
of beauties of another kind, but can have no 
notion of melody or hanmony. The like may 
be faid of beauties in colouring and in figure, 
which can never be perceived without the fen- 
fcs, by which colour and figure are perceived. 

G H A P. IT. 

Of the Gbjeaf of Tq/h, and frjl of Novelty, 

l\ Philosophical analyfis of the objefts of 
±X tafte is like applying the anatomical 
knife to a fine face. I'he defign of the Philo- 
fophcr, as well as of the Anatomifi:, is not to 
gratify tafle, but to improve knowledge. The 
reader ought to bd aware of this, that he may 
not entertain an expedation in which he will 
be difappointed. 

By the objefls of tafle, I mean thofe quali- 
ties or attributes of things, which are by Na- 
ture adapted to pleafe a good tafle. Mr. Ad- 
dison, and Dr. Akenside after him, have re- 
duced them to three, to wit, novelty, gran- 
deur, and beauty. This divifion is fufficient 
for all I intend to fay upon the fubjedl, and 
therefore 1 fnall adopt it ; cbferving only, that 
beauty is often taken in fo extenfive a fenfe as 
to comprehend all the objects of tafle ; yet all 
the authors I have met with, who have given 
a divifion of the objedls of tafle, make beauty 
one fpecies. 

I take the reafon of this to be, that we have 
lpe<iific names for fome of the qualities that 


O F N O V E L T Y. 431 

pleafe the tafte, but not for all; and therefore CHAP, 
all thofe fall under the general name of beau- ' 
ty, for which there is no fpecihc name in the ^"^ 

There are, indeed, fo many fpecies of beau- 
ty, that it would be as difficult to enumerate 
them perfectly, as to enumerate all the tafles 
we perceive by the palate. Nor does there 
appear to me fufficient reafon for making, as 
fome very ingenious authors have done, as 
many different internal fenfes as there are dif- 
ferent fpecies of beauty or deformity. 

The divifion of our external fenfes is taken 
from the organs of perception, and not from 
the qualities perceived. We have not the 
fame means of dividing the internal ; becaufe, 
though fome kinds of beauty belong only to 
objeds of the eye, and others to objects of the 
ear, there are many which we cannot refer to 
any bodily organ ; and therefore I conceive 
every divifion that has been made of our in- 
ternal fenfes to be in fome degree arbitrary. 
They may be made more or fewer, according 
as we have diftind names for the various kinds 
of beauty and deformity; and I fufpecl the 
molt copious languages have not names for 
them alL 

Novelty is not properly a quality of the 
thing to which we attribute it, far lefs is it a 
fenfation in the mind to which it is new ; it is 
a relation which the thing has to the know- 
ledge of the perfon. What is new to one 
man, may not be fo to another; what is new 
this moment, may be familiar to the fame per- 
fon fome time hence. When an objed is firfl 
brought to our knowledge, it is new, whether 
it be agreeable or not. 



It is evident, therefore, with regard to no- 
velty, (whatever may be faid of other objeds 
of tafte) that it is not merely a fenfation in 
the mind of him to whom the thing is new ; 
it is a real relation which the thing has to his 
knowledge at that time. 

But we are fo conftituted, that what is new 
to us, commonly gives pleafure upon that ac- 
count, if it be not in itfelf difagrceable. It 
roufes our attention, and occafions an agreea- 
ble exertion of our faculties. 

The pleafure we receive from novelty in ob- 
jefts has fo great influence in human life, that 
it well deferves the attention of Philofophers ; 
and feveral ingenious authors, f)articularly. 
Dr. GiRARD in his Eflay on Tafte, have, I 
think, fuccefsfully accounted for it, from the 
principles of the human conflitution. 

We can perhaps conceive a being fo made, 
that his happinefs confifts in a continuance of 
the fame unvaried fenfations or feelings, with- 
out any adive exertion on his part. Whether 
this be pofTible or not, it is evident that man is 
not fuch a being ; his good confifts in the vi- 
gorous exertion of his active and intelledive 
powers upon their proper objeds ; he is made 
for adion and progrefs, and cannot be happy 
without it ; his enjoyments feem to be given 
bv Nature, not fo much for their own fake, as 
to encourage the exercife of his various povvers. 
That tranquillity of foul in which fome place 
human happinefs, is not a dead reft, but a re- 
gular progrefTive motion. 

Such is the conftitution of man by the ap- 
pointment of Nature. This conftitution is 
perhaps a part of the imperfedion of our na- 



ture ; but it is v/ifely adapted to our ftate, CHAP, 
which is not intended to be ftationary, bat pro- ^'• 
greffive. The eye is not fatiated with feeing, 
nor the ear with hearing ; fomething is always 
wanted* Defire and hope never ceafe, but re- 
main to fpur us on to fomething yet to be ac- 
quired ; and, if they could ceafe, human hap- 
pinefs mud end with them. That our defire 
and hope be properly directed, is our part ; 
that they can never be extinguiflied, is the 
work of Nature. 

It is this that makes human life fo bufy a 
fcene. Man muft be doing fomething, good 
or bad, trifling or important ; and he muft 
vary the employment of his faculties, or their 
exercife will become languid, and the pleafure 
that attends it ficken of courfe. 

The notions of enjoyment, and of activity, 
confidered abftraclly, are no doubt very diffe- 
rent, and we cannot perceive a necefl'ary con- 
nexion between them. But, in our confti- 
tution, they are fo connected by the wifdoin 
of Nature, that they muft go hand in hand ; 
and the firft muft be led and fupported by the 

An object at firft, perhaps, gave much plea- 
fure, while attention was diredled to it with 
vigour. But attention cannot be long confin- 
ed to one unvaried objeft, nor can it be car- 
ried round in the fame narrow circle. Curio- 
lity is a capital principle in the human confti- 
tution, and its food muft be what is in fome 
refpeft new. What is faid of the Athenians 
may in fome degree be applied to all mankind. 
That their time is fpent in hearing, or telling, 
or doing fome new thing. 

Vol. 11. F f Into 


C H A Fv Jiito this part of the human conftitution, I 
^ ^ • ^ think, we may refolve the pleafure we have 
from novelty in objects. 

Curiofity is commonly ftrongeft in children 
and in young perfons, and accordingly novel- 
ty pleafes them mod. In all ages, in propor- 
tion as novelty gratifies curiofity, and occafi- 
ons a vigorous exertion of any of our mental 
]-;ov/ers in attending to the new object, in the 
fame proportion it gives pleafure. In advan- 
ced life, the indolent and inactive have the 
ftrongell paffion for news, as a relief from a 
painful vacuity of thought. 

But the pleafure derived from new objects^ 
in many cafes, is not owing folely or chiefly 
to their being new, but to fome other circum- 
ftance that gives them value. The new fa- 
fhion in drefs, furniture, equipage, and other 
accommodations of life, gives pleafure, not fo- 
much, as I apprehend, becaufe it is new, 
as becaufe it is a fign of rank, and diitinguifli- 
es a man from the vulgar. 

In fome things novelty is due, and the want 
of it a real imperfection. Thus, if an author 
adds to the number of books, with which the 
public is already overloaded, we expert from 
Iiim fomething new ; and if he fays nothing 
but what has been faid before in as agreeable 
a manner, we are juftly difgufted. 

When novelty is altogether feparated from 
the conception of worth and utility, it makes 
but a flight impreflion upon a truly correct 
tafte. Every difcovery in nature, in the arts, 
aiul in the fciences, has a real value, and gives 
a rational pleafure to a good taiie. But things 
that have nothinsj to recommend them but no- 
Yclty, are fit only to entertain children, or 




thofe who are diflreffed from a vacuity of C HAP. 
thought. This quahty of objeds may there- ^^• 
fore be compared to the cypher in arithmetic, 
which adds greatly to the value of fignificant 
figures ; but, when put by itfelf, fignifies noth- 
ing at all. 

CHAP. Ill; 

Of Grandeur, 

THE qualities which pleafe the tafte are 
not more various in themfelves than are 
the emotions and feelings with which they affedt 
our minds. 

Things new and uncommon affect us with 
a pleafmg furprife, which roufes and invigo- 
rates our attention to the object. But this 
emotion foon flags, if there is nothing but 
novelty to give it continuance, and leaves no 
effeft upon the mind. 

The emotion raifed by grand objeds is aw- 
ful, folemn, and ferious. 

Of all objects of contemplation, the Su- 
preme Being is the mod grand. His eternity, 
his irrimenfity, his irrefiflible power, his in- 
finite knowledge and unerring wifdom, his 
inflexible jufl:ice and reftitude, his fupreme 
government, conducting all the movements 
of this vaft univerfe to the noblefl: ends, and 
in the wifeft manner, are objects which fill the 
utmofl: capacity of the foul, and reach far be- 
yond its comprehenfion. 

The emotion which this grandeft of all 

objects raifes in the human mind, is what we 

call devotion J a ferious recollected temper 

F f 2 which 


CHAP, which infpires magnanimity, and difpofes to 

^ the moft heroic a£ls of virtue. 
^'^^^^ The emotion produced by other objeds 
which may be called grand, thoo8;h in an in- 
ferior degree, is, in its nature and in its ef- 
feds, fimilar to that of devotion. It difpofes to 
ferioufnefs, elevates the mind above its ufual 
ftate, to a kind of enthufiafm, and infpires 
magnanimity, and a contempt of what is 

Such, I conceive, is the emotion which the 
contemplation of grand objedts raifes in us. 
"We are next to confider what this grandeur in 
objeds is. 

To me it feems to be nothing elfe but fuch 
a degree of excellence, in one kind or another, 
as merits our admiration. 

There are fome attributes of mind which 
have a real and intrinfic excellence, compared 
'. with their contraries, and which, in every de- 

gree, are the natural objeds of efteem, but, 
in an uncommon degree are objects of admi- 
ration. We put a value upon them becaufe 
they are intrinfically valuable and excellent. 

The fpirit of modern philofophy would in- 
deed lead us to think, that the worth and va- 
lue we put upon things is only a fenfation in 
our minds, and not any thing inherent in the 
object ; and that we might have been fo con- 
flituted as to put the higheft value upon the 
things which we now defpife,,and to defpife 
the qualities which we now highly efteem. 

It gives me pleafure to obferve, that Dr. 
Price, in his Review of the Queftions con- 
cerning morals, ftrenuoufly oppofes this opi- 
nion, as well as that which refolves moral 
right and wrong into a fenfation in the mind 


O F G R A N D E U R. 437 

of the fpe£^tor. That judicious author faw CHAP, 
the confequences which thefe opinions draw ^^I- 
after them, and has traced them to their *— ■>^"~-' 
fource, to wit, the account given by Mr. 
Locke, and adopted by the generality of mo- 
dern Philofophers, of the origin of all our 
ideas, which account he fhows to be very de- 

This pronenefs to refolve every thing into 
feelings and fenfations, is an extreme into 
which we have been led by the defire of avoid- 
ing an oppofite extreme, as common in the 
ancient philofophy. 

At firft, men are prone by nature and by 
habit to give all their attention to things exter- 
nal. Their notions of the mind, and its ope- 
rations, are formed from fome analogy they 
bear to objeds of fenfe; and an external ex- 
iftence is afcribed to things which are only 
conceptions or feelings of the mind. 

This fpirit prevailed much in the philofophy 
both of Plato and of Aristotle, and pro^ 
duced the myfterious notions of eternal and 
felf-exiftcnt ideas, of materia prima, of fub- 
ftantial forms, and others of the like nature. 

From the time of Des Cartes, philofophy 
took a contrary turn. That great man difco- 
vered, that many things fuppofed to have an 
external exiftence, were only conceptions or 
feelings of the mind. This track has been 
purfued by his fucceflbrs to fuch an extreme, 
as to refolve every thing into fenfations, feel- 
ings, and ideas in the mind, and to leave 
nothing external at all. 

The Peripatetics thought, that heat and cold 
which we feel to be qualities of externa] ob- 


C H A P. je£l:s. The moderns make heat and cold to be 

^^^' fenfations only, and allow no real quality of 

r"'"''^^^'^ body to be called by that name : And the fame 

judgment they have formed with regard to all 

fecondary qualitities. 

So far Des Cartes and Mr. Locke wentt 
Their fucceffors being put into this track of 
converting into feelings things that were be- 
lieved to have an external exiftence, found 
that extenfion, folidity, figure, and all the 
primary qualities of body, are fenfations or 
tfeelings of the mind; and that the material 
•world is a phcsnomenon only, and has no ex- 
iftence but in our mind. 

. It was then a very natural progrefs to con- 
ceive, that beauty, harmony, and grandeur, 
the objects of tafte, as well as right and wrong, 
the objeds of the moral faculty, are nothing 
but feelings of the mind. 

Thofe who are acquainted with the writings 
of modern Philofophers, can eafily trace this 
doftrine of feelings, from Des Cartes down 
to Mr. Hume, who put the finifliing ftroke to 
it, by making truth and error to be feelings 
of the mind, and belief to be an operation of 
the fenfitive part of our nature. 

To return to our fubjeft, if we hearken to 
the dilates of common fenfe, we muft be 
convinced that there is real excellence in forae 
things, whatever our feelings or our conftitu- 
tion be. 

It depends no doubt upon our conftitution, 
whether we do, or do not perceive excellence 
where it really is : But the objed: has its excel- 
lence from its own conftitution, and not from 


O F G R A N D E U R. 439 

The common judgment of mankind in thIsC H A P. 
matter fufficiently appears in the language of ^^^' 
all nations, which uniformly afcribes excel- 
lence, grandeur, and beauty to the objeft, and 
not to the mind that perceives it. And I be- 
lieve in this, as in mod other things, we fhall 
find the common judgment of mankind and 
true philofophy not to be at variance. 

Is not power in its nature more excellent 
than weaknefs ; knowledge than ignorance ; 
wifdom than folly 5 fortitude than pufiUani- 
mity ? 

Is there no intrinfic excellence in felf-com- 
mand, in generofity, in pubHc fpirit ? Is not 
friendfhip a better affedion of mind than ha- 
tred, a noble emulation, than envy? 

Let us fuppofe, if poiTible, a being fo con- 
ilituted, as to have a high refpe£t for ignorance, 
weaknefs, and folly ; to venerate cowardice, 
malice, and envy, and to hold the contrary 
qualities in contempt ; to have an efleem for 
lying and falfehood, and to love moft thofe 
who impofed upon him, and ufed him word. 
Could we believe fuch a conftltution to be any 
thing elfe than madnefs and delirium ? It is im- 
poffible. We can as eafily conceive a conftitu- 
tion, by which one Ihould perceive two and 
three to make fifteen, or a part to be greater 
than the whole. 

Every one who attends to the operations of 
his own mind will find it to be certainly true, 
as it is the common belief of mankind, that 
efleem is led by opinion, and that every per- 
fon draws our efteem, as far only as he appears 
either to reafon or fancy to be amiable and 




CHAP. There is therefore a real intrinfic excellence 
^^^- In fome qualities of mind, as in power, know- 
''^"^ledge, wifdom, virtue, magnanimity. Thefe 
in every degree merit efteem ; but in an un- 
common degree they merit admiration ; and 
that which merits admiration we call grand. 

In the contemplation of uncommon excel- 
lence, the mind feels a noble enthufiaim, 
■which difpofes it to the imitation of what it 

When we contemplate the charader of 
Cato, his greatnefs of foul, his fuperiority to 
pleafure, to toil, and to danger, his ardent 
zeal for the liberty of his country ; when we 
fee him (landing unmoved in misfortunes, the 
lad pillar of the liberty of Rome, and falling 
nobly in his country's ruin, who would not wilh 
to be Cato rather than CjESar in all his 
triumph ? 

Such a fpedacle of a great foul flruggling 
with misfortune, Seneca thought not unwor- 
thy of the attention of Jupiter himfelf, " Ecce 
" fpeclaculum Deo dignum, ad quod refpiciat 
*' Jupiter fuo operi intentus, vir fortis cum 
" mala fortuna compofitus.'* 

As the Deity is of all objects of thought the 
moll grand, the defcriptions given in holy 
writ of his attributes and works, even when 
cloihed in fmiple expreffion, are acknowledged 
to be fubhme. The expreffion of Ivlofes, 
" And God laid, Let there be light, and there 
" v.'as iighr," has not efcaped the notice of 
LoNGiNUSj a Heathen Critic, as an example of 
the fublime. 

What we call fublime in defcription, or in 
fpeech of any kind, is a proper expreffion of 
the admiration and enthufiafm which the fub- 


jed produces in the mind of the fpeaker. If C HAP. 
this admiration and enthufiafm appears to be _ 
juft, it carries the hearer along with it involun- 
tarily, and by a kind of violence rather than 
by cool convidion : For no paffions are fo in- 
fectious as thofe which hold of enthufiafm. 

But, on the other hand, if the paffion of the 
fpeaker appears to be in no degree juftified by 
the fubject or the occafion, it produces in the 
judicious hearer no other emotion but ridicule 
and contempt. 

The true fublime cannot be produced folely 
by art in the compofition ; it mud take its rife 
from grandeur in the fubjed, and a correfpond- 
ing emotion raifed in the mind of the fpeaker. , 
A proper exhibition of thefe, though it Ihould 
be artlefs, is irrefiftible, like fire thrown into 
the midfl of combuftible matter, 

When we contemplate the earth, the fea, 
the planetary fyftem, the univerfe, thefe are 
vaftpbjeds ; it requires a ftretch of imagination 
to grafp them in our minds. But they appear 
truly grand, and merit the highefl admiration, 
when we confider them as the work of God, 
who, in the fimple flyle of fcripture, flretched 
out the heavens, and laid down the foundation 
of the earth ; or, in the poetical language of 

In his hand 
He took the golden compaflTes, prepared. 
In God's eternal flore, to circumfcribe 
This univerfe, and all created things. 
One foot he centered, and the other turn'd 
Round thro' the vafi profundity obfcure ; 
And faid thus far extend, thus far thy bounds ; 
This be thy juft circumference, O world. 


CHAP, When we contemplate the world of Epicu- 
rus, and conceive the univerfe to be a fortui- 
tous jumble of atoms, there is nothing grand 
in this idea. The clafhing of atoms by blind 
chance has nothing in it fit to raife our concep- 
tions, or to elevate the mind. But the regular 
ftrufture of a vafl fyftem of beings, produced 
by creating power, and governed by the beft 
laws which perfe6t wifdom and goodnefs could 
contrive, is a fpeftacle which elevates the un- 
derltanding, and fills the foul with devout ad- 

A great work is a work of great power, 
great wifdom, and great goodnefs, well con- 
trived for fome important end. But power, 
wifdom, and goodnefs, are properly the attri- 
butes of mind only : They are afcribed to the 
work figuratively, but are really inherent in the 
author : And, by the fame figure, the gran* 
deur is afcribed to the work, but is properly 
inherent in the mind that made it. 

Some figures of fpeech are fo natural and fo 
common in all languages, that we are led to 
think them literal and proper expreffions. 
Thus an adlion is called brave, virtuous, gene- 
rous ; but it is evident, that valour, virtue, 
generofity, are the attributes of perfons only, 
and not of aftions. In the a£lion confidered 
abftra6lly, there is neither valour, nor virtue, 
nor generofity. The fame action done from a 
different motive may deferve none of thofc 
epithets. The change in this cafe is not in the 
aftion, but in the agent ; yet, in all languages, 
generofity and other moral qualities are afcri- 
bed to adions. By a figure, we affign to the 
cffed a quality which is inherent only in the 


O F G R A N D E U R. 443 

By the fame figure, we afcribe to a work^ ^ "* 

that grandeur which properly is inherent in the ^ J" ^ 

mind of the author. 

When we confider the IHad as the work of 
the poet, its fubhmity was really in the mind 
of Homer. He conceived great characters, 
great actions, and great events, in a manner 
fuitable to their nature, and vi^ith thofe emoti- 
ons which they are naturally fitted to produce ; 
and he conveys his conceptions and his emoti- 
ons by the mofl proper figns. The grandeur 
of his thoughts is refleded to our eye by his 
work, and therefore it is juitly called a grand 

When we confider the things prefented to 
our mind in the Iliad, without regard to the 
poet, the grandeur is properly in Hector and 
Achilles, and the other great perfonages, 
human and divine, brought upon the ftage. 

Next to the Deity and his works, we admire 
great talents and heroic virtue in men, whe- 
ther reprefented in hiftory or in fiction. The 
virtues of Cato, Aristides, Socrates, 
Marcus Aurelius, are truly grand. Extra- 
ordinary talents and genius,- whether in Poets, 
Orators, Philofophers, or Lav/givers, are ob- 
jects of admiration, and therefore grand. We 
find writers of tafte feized with a kind of en- 
thufiafm in the defcription of fuch perfonages. 

What a grand idea does Virgil give of the 
power of eloquence, when he compares the 
teinpefl: of the fea, fuddenly calmed by thq 
command of Neptune, to a furious fedition in 
a great city, quelled at once by a man of au- 
thority and eloquence. 

Sic ait, ac dido citius tumlda gequora placat : 
Ac veluti magno in populo, fi forte coorta eft 



C H A P.Seditio, fisevitque animis ignobile vulgus ; 

^^^- Jamque faces et faxa volant, furor arma 
"^-^"^^ miniftrat ; 

Turn pietate gravem, et meritis, fi forte vinim 

Confpexere, filent, arredifque auribus adftant. 
Hie regit didis animos, et peclora mulcet. 
Sic cundus pelagi cecidit fragor. 

The wonderful genius of Sir Isaac Newton, 
and his fagacity in difcovering the laws of Na- 
ture, is admirably expreifed in that Ihort h\x% 
fublime epitaph by Pope : 

Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night j 
God faid. Let Newtoj^ be, and all was light. 

Hitherto we have found grandeur only in 
qualities of mind ; but it may be afked. Is 
there no real grandeur in n^aterial objeds ? 

It will perhaps appear extravagant to deny 
that there is ; yet it deferves to be confidered, 
whether all the grandeur we afcribe to objeds 
of fenfe be not derived from fomething intel- 
ledual, of which they are the effeds or figns, 
or to which they bear fome relation or analogy. 

Beftdes the relations of effed and caufe, of 
fign and thing fignified, there are innumerable 
iimilitudes and analogies between things of 
very ditFerent nature, which leads us to conned 
them in our imagination, and to afcribe to the 
one what properly belongs to the other. 

Every metaphor in language is an inftance 
of this ; and it muft be remembered, that a 
very great part of language, which we now 
account proper, was originally metaphorical ; 
for the metaphorical meaning becomes the pro- 

O F G R A N D E U R. '44.5 

per as foon as it becomes the moft ufual ; muchC II A P. 
more, when that which was at firft the proper ^^^ 
meaning falls into difufe. '"" 

The poverty of language, no doubt, contri- 
butes in part to the \ife of metaphor ; and there- 
fore we find the mod barren and uncultivated 
languages the mod metaphorical. But the 
moll copious language may be called barren, 
compared with the fertility of human concep- 
tions, and can never, without the ufe of figures, 
keep pace with the variety of their delicate 

But another caufe of the ufe of metaphor is, 
that we find pleafure in difcovering relations, 
fimilitudes, and analogies, and even contrafts 
that are not obvious to every eye. All figura- 
tive fpeech prefents fomething jpf this kind ; 
and the beauty of poetical language feems to^ 
be derived in a great meafure from this fource. 
Of all figurative language, that is the moft 
common, the moft natural, and the moft agree- 
able, which either gives a body, if we may fo 
fpeak, to things intelledual. and clothes them 
with vifible qualities; or which, on the other 
hand, gives intelledual qualities to the objects 
of fenfe. 

To beings of more exalted faculties, intel- 
lectual objeds may perhaps appear to moil ad- 
vantage in their naked fimplicity. But we can 
hardly conceive them but by means of fome 
analogy they bear to the objects of fenfe. The 
names we give them are almofl all metaphorical 
or analogical. 

Thus the names of grand and fublime, as 
well as their oppofites, mean and low, are evi- 
dently borrowed from the dimenfions of body ; 
yet it mufl be acknowledged, that many things 
are truly grand and fublime, to which we cannot 
;ifcribe the dimenfions of height and extenfion. 



Some analogy there is, without doubt, be- 
tween greatnefs of dimenfion, which is an ob- 
jccl of external fenfe, and that grandeur, w^hich 
is an object of tafle. On account of this ana- 
logy, the laft borrows its name from the firft ; 
and the name being common, leads us to con- 
ceive that there is fomething common in the 
nature of the things. 

But we fliall fmd many qualities of mind, 
denoted by names taken from fome quality of 
body to which they have fome analogy, with- 
out any thing common in their nature. 

Sweetnefs and aufterity, fmiplicity and du- 
plicity, rectitude and crookednefs, are names 
common to certain qualities of mind, and to 
qualities of body to which they have fome ana- 
logy ; yet he, would err greatly who afcribed 
to a body that fweetnefs or that fimplicity which 
are the qualities of mind. In like manner, 
greatnefs and meannefs are names common to 
qualities perceived by the external fenfe, and 
to qualities perceived by tafte ; vet he may be 
in an error, who afcribes to the objects of fenfe 
that greatnefs or that meannefs, which is only 
an object of tafte. 

As intellectual objects are made more level 
to our apprehenfion by giving them a vifible 
form ; fo the objects of fenfe are dignified and 
made more auguft, by afcribing to them intel- 
lectual qualities which have fome analogy to 
thofe they really polTefs. The fca rages, the 
fky lowrs, the meadows fmile, the rivulets 
murmur, the breezes whifper, the foil is grate- 
ful or ungrateful ; fuch expreffions are fo fa- 
miliar in common language, that they are 
fcarcely accounted poetical or figurative ; but 
they give a kind of dignity to inanimate objects, 


O F G R A N D E U R. 447 

and make our conception of them more agree- CHAP, 
able. ^^^• 

When wc confider matter as an inert, ex- 
tended, divifible and moveable fubftance, there 
feems to be nothing in thefe qualities which we 
can call grand ; and when we afcribe grandeur 
to any portion of matter, however modified, 
may it not borrow this quality from fomething 
intelleftual, of which it is the eifeft, or fign, 
or inflrument, or to which it bears fome ana- 
logy ; or, perhaps, becaufe it produces in the 
mind an emotion that has fome refemblance to 
that admiration which truly grand objects raife ? 

A very elegant writer on the fublime and 
beautiful, makes every thing grand or fublime 
that is terrible. Might he not be led to this 
by the fimilarity between dread and admira- 
tion ? Both are grave and folemn palTions ; 
both make a ftrong impreflion upon the mind ; 
and both are very infedious. But they differ 
fpecifically, in this refpedt, that admiration 
fuppofes fome uncommon excellence in its ob- 
jeft, which dread does not. We may admire 
what we fee no reafon to dread ; and we may 
dread what we do not admire. In dread, there 
is nothing of that enthufiafm which naturally 
accompanies admiration, and is a chief ingre- 
dient of the emotion raifed by what is truly 
grand or fublime. 

Upon the whole, I humbly apprehend, that 
true grandeur is fuch a degree of excellence as 
is fit to raife an enthufiailical admiration ; that 
this grandeur is found originally and properly 
in qualities of mind ; that it is difcerned in ob- 
jeds of fenfe only by reflection, as the light we 
perceive in the moon and planets is truly the 
light of jhe fun. J and that thofe who look for 


448 ESSAY viii. 

C H A p. grandeur in mere matter, feek the living among 
^' the dc:id. 

*"^'^^^-^ If this be a miflake, it ought at lead to be 
granted, that the grandeur which we perceive 
in qualities of mind, ought to have a different 
name from that which belongs properly to the 
objects of fenfe, as they are very different in 
their nature, and produce very different emo- 
tions in the mind of the fpeClator. 


Of Beauty. 

EAUTY is found in things fo various, 

and fo very different in nature, that it 

IS diiucult to fay wherein it confifts, or what 
there can be common to all the obje£ls in 
which it is found. 

Of the objecrs of fenfe, we find beauty in 
colour, in found, in form, in motion. There 
are beauties of fpeech, and beauties of 
thought ; beauties in the arts, and in the fci^ 
ences ; beauties in actions, in affections, and 
in characters. 

In things fo different, and fo unlike, is there 
any quality, the fame in all, which v/e may 
call by the name of beauty r What can it be 
that is common to the thought of a mind, and 
the form of a piece of matter, to an abftract 
theorem, and a ftroke of wit ? 

I am indeed unable to conceive any quality 
in all the different things that are called beau- 
tiful, that is the fame in them all. There 
feemxS to be no identity, nor even fimilarity, 
between the beauty of a theorem and the beau- 

O F B E A U T Y. 449 

ty of a piece of mufic, though both may be C H A P. 
beautiful. The kinds of beauty feem to be as ^^• 
various as the objeds to which it is afcribed. 

But why fhould things fo different be callftd 
by the fame name ? This cannot be without a 
reafon. If there be nothing common in the 
things themfelves, they mull have fome com- 
mon relation to us, or to fomething elfe, which 
leads us to give them the fame name. 

All the objects we call beautiful agree in two 
things, which feem to concur in our fenfe of 
beauty. Firjl^ When they are perceived, or 
even imagined, they produce a certain agree- 
able emotion or feeling in the mind , and fe- 
condly^ This agreeable emotion is accompanied 
with an opinion or belief of their having fome 
perfection or excellence belonging to them. 

Whether the pleafure we feel in contem- 
plating beautiful objeds may have any necelfa- 
ry connection with the belief of their excel- 
lence, or whether that pleafure be conjoined 
with this belief, by the good pleafure only of 
our Maker, 1 will not determine. The readi- 
er may fee Dr. Price's fentiments upon this 
fubje£t, which merit confideration, in the fe- 
cond chapter of his Review of the Queflions 
concerning Morals. 

Though we may be able to conceive thefe 
two ingredients of our fenfe of beauty disjoin- 
ed, this affords no evidence that they have no 
neceflary connection. It has indeed been 
maintained, that whatever we can conceive, 
is poflible : But I endeavoured, in treating of 
conception, to ffiow, that this opinion, though 
very common, is a miftake. There may be, 
and probably are, many neceflary connedions 

Vol. IL G s of 



C H A P of things in nature, which we are too dim- 
^^* fighted to difcover. 

The emotion produced by beautiful objeds 
is gay and pleafant. It fweetens and humani- 
fes the temper, is friendly to every benevo- 
lent aft'eclion, and tends to allay fuUen and 
angry paffions. It enlivens the mind, and dif- 
pofes it to other agreeable emotions, fuch as 
thofe of love, hope, and joy. It gives a value 
to the objeft, abftraded from its utility. 

In things that may be poffefled as property, 
beauty greatly enhances the price. A beauti- 
ful dog or horfe, a beautiful coach or houfe, 
a beautiful picture or profped, is valued by 
its owner and by others, not only for its utili- 
ty, but for its beauty. 

If the beautiful objcdl be a perfon, his com- 
pany and converfation are, on that account, 
the more agreeable, and we are difpofed to 
love and cileem him. Even in a perfect Itran- 
ger, it is a powerful recommendation, and 
difpofes us to favour and think well of him, if 
of our own fex, and (till more if of the other. 

" There is nothing, fays Mr. Addison, 
" that makes its way more diredly to the 
" foul than beauty, which immediately difFu- 
'* fes a fecret fatisfaction and complacence 
" through the imagination, and gives a finifh- 
" ing to any thing that is great and uncom- 
*' mon. The very fir ft difcovery of it ftrikes 
" the mind with an inward joy, and fpreads a 
" chcerfulnefs and delight through all its fa- 
" culties." 

As we afcrlbe beauty, not only to perfons, 
but to inanimate things, we give the name of 
love or liking to the emotion, which beauty, 
in both thelc kinds of objeds, produces. It 



is evident, however, that liking to a perfon is^ H A P, 
a very different affeftion of mind from liking ,11^ 
to an inanimate thing. The firft always im- 
plies benevolence ; but what is inanimate can- 
not be the object of benevolence. The two 
affections, however different, have a refem- 
blance in fome refpeds ; and, on account of 
that refemblance, have the fame name : And 
perhaps beauty, in thefe two different kinds 
ofobjeCls, though it has one name, maybe 
as different in its nature as the emotions which 
it produces in us. 

Befides the agreeable emotion which beau- 
tiful objeds produce in the mind of the fpec- 
tator, they produce alfo an opinion or judg- 
ment of fome perfection or excellence in the 
obje£t. This I take to be a fecond ingredient 
in our fefne of beauty, though it feems not to 
be admitted by modern Philofophers. 

The ingenious Dr. Hutcheson, who per- 
ceived fome of the defefts of Mr. Locke's 
fyftem, and made very important improve- 
ments upon it, feems to have been carried 
away by it, in his notion of beauty. In his 
Inquiry concerning Beauty, SeQ:. i. " Let 
" it be obferved, fays he, that, in the foUow- 
" ing papers, the word beauty is taken for 
" the idea raifed in us, and the fenfe of beau- 
" ty for our power of receiving that idea.'* 
And again ; " Only let it be obferved, that, 
*' by abfolute or original beauty, is not un- 
" derftood any quality fuppofed to be in the 
" objed which (hould, of itfelf, be beautiful, 
" without relation to any mind which per- 
" ceives it : For beauty, like other names of 
" fenfible ideas, properly denotes the percep- 
" tion of fome mind ; fo cold, hot, fweet, 
G g 2 " bitter, 


ESSAY Vllf. 

CHAP. " bitter, denote the fenfations in our minds,- 
'^- " to which perhaps there is no refemblance in 
" the objects which excite thefe ideas in us ; 
*' however, we generally imagine otherwife. 
" Were there no mind, with a fenfe of beau- 
" ty, to contemplate objects, I fee not how 
" they could be called beautiful." 

There is no doubt an analogy between the 
external fenfes of touch and tafte, and the in- 
ternal fenfe of beauty. This analogy led Dr. 
HuTCHESoN, and other modern Philofophers, to 
apply to beauty, what Des Cartes and Locke 
had taught concerning the fecondary qualities, 
perceived by the external fenfes. 

Mr. LocKE*'s doctrine concerning the fecon- 
dary qualities of body, is not fo much an er- 
ror in judgment as an abufe of words. He 
dillinguifhed very properly between the fenfa- 
tions we have of heat and cold, and that qua- 
lity or ftructure in the body which is adapted 
by Nature to produce thofe fenfations in us. 
He obferved very juftly, that there can be no 
fimilitude between one of thefe and the other. 
They have the relation of an effect to its caufe, 
but no fimilitude. This was a very juft and 
proper correftion of the dodrine of the Peri- 
patetics, who taught, that all our fenfations 
are the very form and image of the quality in 
the object by which they are produced. 

What remained to be determined was, whe- 
ther the words, heat and cold, in common 
language, fignify the fenfations we feel, or 
the cualities of the objeft which are the caufe 
of thefe fenfations. Mr. Locke made heat 
and cold to fignify only the fenfations we feel, 
and not the qualities which are the caufe of 
them. And in this, I apprehend, lay his mif- 


OF BEAUT Y, 453 

take. For it is evident, from the ufe of lan-C HAP. 
guage, that hot and cold, fweet and bitter, ^^• 
are attributes of external objects, and not of ^"^ — ^^ '' 
the perfon who perceives them. Hence, it 
appears a monitrous paradox to fay, there 
is no heat in the tire, no fweetnefs in 
fugar: But, when explained according to Mr. 
Locke's meaning, it is, like moft other 
paradoxes, an abufe of words. 

The fenfe of beauty may be analyfed in a 
manner very fimilar, to the fenfe of fweetnefs. 
It is an agreeable feeling or emotion, accom- 
panied with an opinion or judgment of fome 
excellence in th^ objeft, which is fitted by 
Nature to produce that feeling. 

The feeling is, no doubt, in the mind, and 
fo alfo is the judgment we form of the objed: 
But this judgment, like all others, mull be 
true or falfe. If it be a true judgment, there 
is fome real excellence in the objed. And 
the ufe of all languages fhows, that the name 
of beauty belongs to this excellence of the 
objed, and not to the feelings of the fpeda- 

To fay that there is in reality no beauty in 
thofe obje£ls in which all men perceive beauty, 
is to attribute to man fallacious fenfes. But 
w^e have no ground to think fo difrefpedfuUy 
of the Author of our being; the faculties he 
hath given us are not fallacious; nor is that 
beauty, which he hath fo liberally diffufed 
over all the works of his hands, a mere fancy 
in us, but a real excellence in his works, 
which exprefs the perfedion of their Divine 

We have reafon to believe, not only that 
the beauties we fee in nature are real, and not 



ESSAY vin. 

CHAP. " bitter, denote the fenfations in our minds,- 
I^- " to which perhaps there is no refemblance in 
" the objects which excite thefe ideas in us ; 
" however, we generally imagine otherwife. 
*' Were there no mind, with a fenfe of beau- 
*' ty, to contemplate objeds, I fee not how 
" they could be called beautiful." 

There is no doubt an analogy between the 
external fenfes of touch and taile, and the in- 
ternal fenfe of beauty. This analogy led Dr. 
HuTCHESON, and other modern Philofophers, to 
apply to beauty, what Des Cartes and Locke 
had taught concerning the fecondary qualities, 
perceived by the external fenfes* 

Mr. Locker's doftrine concerning the fecon- 
dary qualities of body, is not fo much an er- 
ror in judgment as an abufe of words. He 
dillinguiflied very properly between the fenfa- 
tions we have of heat and cold, and that qua- 
lity or ftrufture in the body which is adapted 
by Nature to produce thofe fenfations in us. 
He obferved very juftly, that there can be no 
fimilitude between one of thefe and the other. 
They have the relation of an effed to its caufe, 
but no fimilitude. This was a very juft and 
proper correction of the dodrine of the Peri- 
patetics, who taught, that all our fenfations 
are the very form and image of the quality in- 
the objeft by which they are produced. 

What remained to be determined was, whe- 
ther the words, heat and cold, in common 
language, fignify the fenfations we feel, or 
the cualities of the objed which are the caufe 
of thefe fenfations. Mr. Locke made heat 
and cold to fignify only the fenfations we feel, 
and not the qualities which are the caufe of 
them. And in this, I apprehend, lay his mif- 



take. For it is evident, from the ufe of lan-C HAP. 
guage, that hot and cold, fweet and bitter, ^^• 
are attributes of external objects, and not of ^"""""^ '' 
the perfon who perceives them. Hence, it 
appears a monftrous paradox to fay, there 
is no heat in the tire, no fweetnefs in 
fugar: But, when explained according to Mr. 
Locke's meaning, it is, like moft other 
paradoxes, an abufe of words. 

The fenfe of beauty may be analyfed in a 
manner very fimilar, to the fenfe of fweetnefs. 
It is an agreeable feeling or emotion, accom- 
panied with an opinion or judgment of fome 
excellence in the objed, which is fitted by 
Nature to produce that feeling. 

The feeling is, no doubt, in the mind, and 
fo alfo is the judgment we form of the object: 
But this judgment, like all others, mult be 
true or falfe. If it be a true judgment, there 
is fome real excellence in the objed. And 
the ufe of all languages fhows, that the name 
of beauty belongs to this excellence of the 
object, and not to the feelings of the fpeda- 

To fay that there is in reality no beauty in 
thofe objefts in which all men perceive beauty, 
is to attribute to man fallacious fen.fes. But 
we have no ground to think fo difrefpeftfully 
of the Author of our being; the faculties he 
hath given us are not fallacious; nor is that 
beauty, which he hath fo liberally diffufed 
over all the works of his hands, a mere fancy 
in us, but a real excellence in his works, 
which exprefs the perfedion of their Divine 

We have reafon to believe, not only that 
the beauties we fee in nature are real, and not 




CHAP, fanciful, but that there are thoufands which 
^^' our facuhies are too dull to perceive. We fee 
many beauties, both of human and divine art, 
which the brute animals are incapable of per- 
ceiving ; and fuperior beings may excel us as 
far in their difcernment of true beauty as we 
excel the brutes. 

The man who is fkilled in painting or fta- 
tuary, fees more of the beauty of a fine pic- 
ture or ftatue than a common fpecl:ator. The 
fame thing holds in all the fine arts. The mod 
perfed works of art have a beauty that ftrikes 
even the rude and ignorant ; bu-t they fee only 
a fmall part of that beauty which is feen in 
fuch works by thofe who underftand them per- 
fectly, and can produce them. 

This may be applied with no lefs juftice to 
the works of Nature. They have a beauty 
that ftrikes even the ignorant and inattentive. 
But the more we difcover of their ftrudure, 
of their mutual relations, and of the laws by 
which they are governed, the greater beauty, 
and the more delightful marks of art, wifdom 
and goodnefs, we difcern. 

Thus the expert Anatomift fees numberlcfs 
beautiful contrivances in the ftrudure of the 
human body, which are unknown to the igno- 

Although the vulgar eye fees much beauty 
in the face of the heavens, and in the various 
motions and changes of the heavenly bodies, 
the expert Aftronomer, who knows their or- 
der and diftances, their periods, the orbits 
they defcribe in the vaft regions of fpace, and 
the fimple and beautiful laws by which their 
motions are governed, and all the appearances 
of their ftations, progreflions, and retrogra- 



O F B E A U T Y. 455 

dations, their eclipfes, occultations, and tran-C HAP. 
fits are produced, fees a beauty, order, and ^^'• 
harmony reign through the whole planetary ""^ *""— "^ 
fyftem, which delights the mind. The eclipfes 
of the fun and moon, and the blazing tails of 
comets, which flrike terror into barbarous na- 
tions, furnifh the moft pleafmg entertainment 
to his eye, and a feafl: to his underftanding. 

In every part of Nature's works, there are 
numberlefs beauties, which, on account of 
our ignorance, we are unable to perceive. 
Superior beings may fee more than we; but 
he only who made them, and, upon a review, 
pronounced them all to be very good, can fee 
all their beauty. 

Our determinations with regard to the beau- 
ty of objects, may, I think, be diftinguiihed 
into two kinds ; the firfl we may call inftinctive, 
the other rational. 

Some objeds ftrike us at once, and appear 
beautiful at firft fight, without any reflection, 
without our being able to fay why we call them 
beautiful, or being able to fpecify any perfec- 
tion which juflifies our judgment. Something 
of this kind there feems to be in brute ani- 
mals, and in children before the ufe of reafon ; 
nor does it end with infancy, but continues 
through life. 

In the plumage of birds, and of butterflies, 
in the colours and form of flowers, of Ihells, 
and of many other objedls, we perceive a 
beauty that delights ; but cannot fay what it is 
in the object that fnould produce that emotion. 

The beauty of the object may in fuch cafes 
be called an occult quality. We know well 
how it aftefts our fenfes ; bat what it is in itfelf 
we know not. But this, as well as other oc- 


CHAP, cult qualities, is a proper fubjeQ: of philofophi- 
• cal difquifition ; and, by a careful examination 

^'^ of the objects to which Nature hath given this 
amiable quality, we may perhaps difcover fome 
real excellence in the objeO:, or, at leaft, fome 
valuable purpofe that is ferved by the fffect 
which it produces upon us. 

This inrtinclive fenfe of beauty, in different 
fpecies of animals, may differ as much as the 
external fenfe of tafte, and in each fpecies be 
adapted to its manner of life. By this per- 
haps the various tribes are led to alfociate with 
their kind, to dwell among certain objects ra- 
ther than others, and to conflruct their habi- 
tation in a particular manner. 

There feem likewife to be varieties in the 
fenfe of beauty in the individuals of the fame 
fpecies, by which they are directed in the choice 
of a mate, and in the love and care of their 

" We fee," fays Mr. Addison, "that every 
" different fpecies of fenfible creatures has its 
" different notions of beauty, and that each 
" of them is moil affected with the beauties 
" of its own kind. This is no where more 
" remarkable than in birds of the fame fhape 
" and proportion, where we often fee the mate 
" determined in his courtfhip by the fmgle 
" grain or tincture of a feather, and never 
" difcovering any charms but in the colour of 
'' its own foecies." 


" Scit thalamofervarefidem, fan6tafque veretur 
" Connubii leges; non ilium in pectore candor 
*' Sollicitat niveus; neque pravum accendit 

" amorem 
^' Splendida lanugo, vel honefla inverticecrifla; 

" Purpureufve 

O F B E A U T Y. 457 

^^ Purpureufve nitor pennarum ; aft agmina late CHAP. 
" Foeminea explorat cautus, maculafque re- ^^'• 

" quirit 
" Cognatas, paribufque interlita corpora guttis: 
" Ni faceret, pidis fylvam circum undique 

" monftris 
" Confufamafpiceresvulgo, partufque biformes, 
" Et genus ambiguum, et veneris monumenta 

" nefandse. 

" Hinc merula in nigro fe obledat nigra 

" marito; 
" Hinc focium lafciva petit philomela canorum, 
" Agnofcitquc pares ibnitus; hinc noctua te- 

" tram 
" Canitiem alarum, et glaucos miratur ocellos. 
*' Nempe fibi femper conftat, crefcitque quo- 

" tannis 
" Lucida progenies, caftos confefla parentes: 
" Vere novo exultat, plumafque decora ju- 

" ventus 
" Explicatadfolem, patriifquecoloribus ardet." 

In the human kind there are varieties in the 
tafte of beauty, of which we can no more af- 
fign a reafon than of the variety of their fea- 
tures, though it is eafy to perceive that very 
important ends are anfwered by both. Thefe 
varieties are moft obfervable in the judgments 
we form of the features of the other fex ; and 
in this the intention of Nature is moft appa- 

As far as our determinations of the compa- 
rative beauty of objefts are inftinctive, they 
are no fubjed: of reafoning or of criticifm ; 
they are purely the gift of Nature, and we 



CHAP, have no flandard by which they may be mea- 
^^' fured. 

But there are judgments of beauty that may 
be called rational, being grounded on fome 
agreeable quality of the object which is diftincc- 
ly conceived, and may be fpecified. 

This diuinflion between a rational judgment 
of beauty and that which is inftinclive, may 
be illuftrated by an inflance. 

In a heap of pebbles, one that is remarkable 
for brilliancy of colour and regularity of figure, 
will be picked out of the heap by a child. He 
perceives a beauty in it, puts a value upon it, 
and is fond of the property of it. For this 
preference, no reafon can be given, but that 
children are, by their conflitution, fond of 
brilliant colours, and of regular figures. 

Suppofe again that an expert mechanic 
views a well conftrucled machine. He fees all 
its parts to be made of the fitted materials, and 
of the mod proper form ; nothing fuperfluous, 
nothing deficient ; every part adapted to its 
ufe, and the whole fitted in the mod perfect 
manner to the end for which it is intended. 
He pronounces it to be a beautiful machine. 
He views it with the fame agreeable emotion 
as the child viewed the pebble ; but he can 
give a reafon for his judgment, and point out 
the particular perfedions of the objeft on 
which it is grounded. 

x^lthouoh the indindlve and the rational 


fenfe of beauty may be perfeftly didinguifhed 
in fpeculation, yet, in paiiing judgment upon 
particular objects, they are often fo mixed 
and confounded, that it is difficult to affign to 
each its own province. Nay, it may often 
happen, that a judgment of the beauty of an 



O F B E A U T y. 459 

objeft, which was at firil merely infl:In6i:ive,C H A P. 
fliall afterwards become rational, when we dif- ''^• 
cover fome latent pcrfcdion of which that 
beauty in the object is a fign. 

As the fenfe of beauty may be difhinguifhed 
into inftindive and rational ; lb I think beauty 
itfelf may be dillinguifhed into original and 

As fome objects fliine by their own light, 
and many more by light that is borrowed and 
reflected; fo I conceive the luftre of beauty 
in fome objects is inherent and original, and 
in many others is borrowed and reflected. 

There is nothing more common in the fen- 
timents of all mankind, and in the language 
of all nations, than vdiat may be called a com- 
munication of attributes ; that is, transferring 
an attribute, from the fubjett to which it pro- 
perly belongs, to fome related or refembling 

The various objects which Nature prefents 
to our view, even thofe that arc moft different 
in kind, have innumerable fimilitudes, rela- 
tions, and analogies, which we contemplate 
with pleafure, and which lead us naturally to 
borrow words and attributes from one objed: 
to exprefs what belongs to another. The 
greateil part of every language under heaven 
is made up of words borrowed from one thing, 
and applied to fomething fuppofed to have 
fome relation or analogy to their firft fignifi- 

The attributes of body we afcribe to mind, 
and the attributes of mind to material objects. 
To inanimate things we afcribe life, and even 
intelledual and moral qualities. And although 
the qualities that are thus made common 



CHAP, belong to one of the fubje£ls in the proper 
^^' fenie, and to the other metaphorically, thefe 
dliFerent fenfes are often fo mixed in our ima- 
gination, as to produce the fame fentiment 
with regard to both. 

It is therefore natural, arid agreeable to the 
flrain of human fentiments and of human 
language, that in many cafes the beauty which 
originally and properly is in the thing fignified, 
fliould be transferred to the fign; that which 
is in the caufe to the effeft; that which is in 
the end to the means; and that which is in the 
agent to the inflrument. 

If what was faid in -the lad chapter of the 
diftinclion between the grandeur which we af- 
cribe to qualities of mind, and that which we 
afcribe to material objetls, be well founded, 
this diflinftion of the beauty of objeds will 
eafily be admitted as perfectly analogous to 
it. I ihall therefore only illuftrate it by an 

There is nothing in the exterior of a man 
more lovely and more attradive than perfect 
good breeding. But what is this good breed- 
ing? It confiits of all the external figns of 
due refpeft to our fuperiors, condefcenfion to 
our inferiors, politenefs to all with whom we 
converfe or have to do, joined in the fair fex 
with that delicacy of outward behaviour which 
becomes them. And how comes it to have 
fuch charms in the eyes of all manicind? For 
this reafon only, as I apprehend, that it is a 
natural fign of that temper, and thofe affec- 
tions and fentiments with regard to others, 
and with regard to ourfelves, which are in 
themfelves truly amiable and beautiful. 


O F B E A U T Y. 461 

This is the original, of which good breed- C H A P. 
ing is the pidure; and it is the beauty of the ^^• 
original that is refleded to our fenfe by the* 
pidure. The beauty of good breeding, there- 
fore, is not originally in the external behaviour 
in which it confifts, but is derived from the 
qualities of mind which it exprefles. And 
though there may be good breeding without 
the amiable qualities of mind, its beauty is 
ftill derived from what it naturally exprefles. 

Having explained thefe diftinclions of our 
fenfe of beauty into inftinclive and rational, 
and of beauty itfelf into original and derived, 
I would now proceed to give a general view of 
thofe qualities in objeds, to which we may 
juftly and rationally afcribe beauty, whether 
original or derived. 

But here fome embarraffment arifes from the 
vague meaning of the word beauty, which I 
had occafion before to obferve. 

Sometimes it it extended, fo as to include 
every thing that pleafes a good tafte, and fo 
comprehends grandeur and novelty, as well 
as what in a more reilricled fenfe is called 
beauty. At other times, it is even by good 
writers confined to the obje£ls of fight, when 
they are either feen, or remembered,, or ima- 
gined. Yet it is admitted by all men, that 
there are beauties in mufic; that there is 
beauty as well as fublimity in compofition, 
both in verfe and in profe; that there is beau- 
ty in characters, in affections, and in adions. 
Thefe are not objects of fight; and a man may 
be a good judge of beauty of various kinds, 
who has not the faculty of fight. 

To give a determinate meaning to a word fo 
varioufly extended and reftrided, I know no 



C H A P. better wav than what is fuggefted by the coin- 
^^- mon divifion of the objects of tafte into novel- 
' - ty, grandeur, and beauty. Novelty, it is 
plain, is no quahty of the new objecl, but 
merely a relation which it has to the knowledge 
of the perfon to whom it is new. Therefore, 
if this general divifion be jull, every quality 
in an objecl that pleafes a good tafte, muft, 
in one degree or another, have either grandeur 
or beauty. It mav flill be difficult to fix the 
precife limit betwixt grandeur and beauty; 
but they muft together comprehend every 
thing fitted by its nature to pleafe a good tafte, 
that is, every real perfeclion and excellence 
in the objects we contemplate. 

In a poem, in a picture, in a piece of mu- 
fic, it is real excellence that pleafes a good 
tafte. In a perfon, every perfeclion of the 
mine, moral or intellectual, and every perfec- 
tion of the body, gives pleafure to the fpecta- 
tor as well as to the owner, when there is no 
envy nor malignity to deftroy that pleafure. 

It is therefore in the fcale of perfection and 
real excellence that we muft look for what 
is either grand or beautiful in objects. What 
is the proper object of admiration is grand, 
and what is the proper object ot love and ef- 
teem is beautiful. 

This, I think, is the only notion of beauty 
that correfponds with the divifion of the ob- 
jects of tafte which has been generally receiv- 
ed by Fhilofophers. And this connection of 
beauty, with real perfection, was a capital 
doCtrine of the Socratic fchool. It is often 
afcribedto Socrates in the dialogues of Pla- 
to and of Xenophon. 



We may therefore take a view, firft, ofCHAP 
thole qualities of mind to which we may juflly ^ " • 
and rationally afcribe beauty, and then of the "— -'^^"'•-' 
beauty we perceive in the objefts of fenie. 
We ihall fmd, if I miftake not, that, in the 
tirft, original beauty is to be found, and that 
the beauties of the fecond clafs are derived 
from fome relation they bear to mind, as the 
figns or expreliions of fome amiable mental 
quality, or as the effetls of defign, art, and 
wife contrivance. 

As grandeur naturally produces admiration, 
beauty naturally produces love. We may 
therefore juflly afcribe beauty to thofe qualities 
which are the natural objctls of love and kind 

Of this kind chiefly are fome of the moral 
virtues, which in a peculiar manner conllitute 
a lovely character. Innocence, gentlenefj, 
condefcenfion, humanity, natural atfedion, 
public fpirit, and the v/hole train of the foft 
and gentle virtues. Thefe qualities are ami- 
able from their very nature, and on account 
of their intrinfic worth. 

There are other virtues that raife admiration, 
and are therefore grand; fuch as magnanimity, 
fortitude, felf-command, fuperiority to pain 
and labour, fuperiority to pleafure, and to 
the fmiies of fortune as well as to her frowns. 

Thefe awful virtues conflitute what is mod 
grand in the human character ; the gentle vir- 
tues, what is moft beautiful and lovely. As 
they are virtues, they draw the approbation of 
our moral faculty; as they are becoming and 
amiable, they affect our fenfe of beauty. 

Next to the amiable moral virtues, there are 
many intelleftual talents which have an intrinfic 



CHAP, value, and draw our love and efteem to thofe 
IV^ who poflefs them. Such are, knowledge, 
'good fenfe, wit, humour, cheerfulnefs, good 
tafte, excellence in any of the fine arts, in 
eloquence, in dramatic action ; and we may 
add, excellence in every art of peace or war 
that is ufeful in fociety. 

There are likewife talents which we refer to 
the body, which have an original beauty and 
comelinefs; fuch as health, flrength, and agi- 
lity, the ufual attendants of youth; fkill in 
bodily exercifes, and fkill in the mechanic arts. 
Thefe are real perfections of the man, as they 
increafe his power, and render the body a fit 
inflrument for the mind. 

I apprehend, therefore, that it is In the mo- 
ral and intelleftual perfections of mind, and 
in its active powers, that beauty originally 
dwells ; and that from this as the fountain, all 
the beauty which we perceive in the vifible 
world is derived. 

This, I think, was the opinion of the anci- 
ent Philofophers before named; and it has 
been adopted by Lord Shaftesbury and Dr. 
Akenside among the moderns. 

" Mind, mind alone! bear witnefs earth and 

" heav'n, 
" The living fountains in itfelf contains 
" Of beauteous and fublime. Here hand in 

" hand 
" Sit paramount the graces. Here enthron'd, 
" Celeflial Venus, with divined airs, 
" Invites the foul to never-fading joy.** 


But neither mind, nor any of its qualities or 
powers, is an imi^ediate object of perception 


O F B E A U T Y. 465 

to man. We are, indeed, immediately con- CHAP, 
fcious of the operations of our own mind; ^^• 
and every degree of perfection in them gives 
the pureft pleafure, with a proportional degree 
of felf-efteem, fo flattering to felf-love, that 
the great difficulty is to keep it within juft 
bounds, fo that we may not think of ourfelves 
above what we ought to think. 

Other minds we perceive only through the 
medium of material objects, on which their 
fignatures are imprcfled. It is through this 
medium that we perceive life, activity, wif- 
dom, and every moral and intellectual quality 
in other beings. The figns of thofe qualities 
are immediately perceived by the fenfes; by 
them the qualifies themfelves are reflected to our 
underftanding ; and we are very apt to attri- 
bute to the fign the beauty or the grandeur, 
which is properly and originally in the things 

The invifible Creator, the Fountain of all 
perfection, hath (tamped upon all his works 
fignatures of his divine wifdom, power, and 
benignity, which are vifible to all men. The 
works of men in fcience, in the arts of tafte, 
and in the mechanical arts, bear the fignatures 
of thofe qualities of mind which were employ- 
ed in their production. Their external beha- 
viour and conduct in life expreifes the good 
or bad qualities of their mind. 

In every fpecies of animals, v/e perceive by 
vifible figns their inltincts, their appetites, 
their affettions, their fagacity. Even in the 
inanimate world there are many things analo- 
gous to the qualities of mind; fo that there is 
hardly any thing belonging to mind which may 
not be reprefented by images taken from the 

Vol. II. H h objects 


CHAP. In harmony, the very names of concord 
^J- and difcord are metaphorical, and fuppofe 
iome analo8;y between the relations of found, 
to which they are figuratively applied, and the 
relations of minds and affedions, which they 
originally and properly fignify. 

As far as 1 can judge by my ear. when two 
or more perfons of a good voice and ear, con- 
verfe together in amity and friend fliip, the 
tones of their different voices are concordant, 
but become diicordant when they give vent to 
angry pallions; fo that, without hearing w^hat 
is faid, one may know by the tones of the dif- 
ferent voices, whether they quarrel or converfe 
amicably. This, indeed, is not fo eafily per- 
ceived in thofe who have been taught, by good- 
breeding, to fupprefs any tones of voice, even 
when they are angry, as in the loweft rank, 
who exprefs their angry pafTions without any 

When difcord arifes occafionally in conver- 
fation, but foon terminates in perfect amity, 
we receive more pleafure than from perfect 
uianimity. In hke manner, in the harmony 
of mufic, difccrdant founds are occafionally 
introduced, but it is always in order to give a 
relifn to the moil perfect concord that follow^s. 
Whether thefe analogies, between the har- 
mony of a piece of mufic, and harmony in 
the intercouri'e of minds, be merely fanciful, 
or have any real foundation in fad, I fubmit 
to thofe who have a nicer ear, and have applied 
it to obfervations of this kind. If they have 
any juil foundation, as they feem to me to 
have, they ferve lo account for the metaphori- 
cal application of the names of concord and 
difcord to the relations of founds 5 to account 



for the pleafure we have from harmony in mu-C HAP. 
fic; and to Ihow, that the beauty of harmony ^^• 
is derived from the relation it has to agreeable '-""^^'^ 
affeftions of mind. 

With regard to mel-^dy, I leave it to the 
adepts in the fcience of mufic, to determine, 
whether mufic, compofed according to the 
eftablifhed rules of harmony and melody, can 
be altogether void of expreffion; and whether 
mufic that has no expreliion can have any beau- 
ty. To me it feems, that every flrain in me- 
lody that is agreeable, is an imitation of the 
tones of the human voice in the expreffion of 
fome fentiment or paffion, or an imitation of 
fome other objeft in nature ; and that mufic, 
as well as poetry, is an imitative art. 

The fenfe of beauty in the colours, and in 
the motions of inanimate objeds, is, I be- 
lieve, in fome cafes inflinctive. We fee, that 
children and favages are pleafed with brilliant 
colours and fprightly motions. In perfons of 
an improved and rational tafte, there are ma- 
nv fources from which colours and motions 
may derive their beauty. They, as well as the 
forms of objects, admit of regularity and va- 
riety. The motions produced by machinery, 
indicate the perfection or imperfedion of the 
mechanifm, and may be better or worfe adapt- 
ed to their end, and from that derive their 
beauty or deformity. 

The colours of natural objects, are com- 
monly figns of fome good or bad quality in 
the objed ; or they may fuggeit to the imagi- 
nation fomething agreeable or difagreeable. 

In drefs and furniture, fafiiion has a confi- 
derable influence on the preference we give to 
one colour above another. 

A num- 


CHAP. A number of clcuds of diflerent and ever- 
^^J|j_;^ changing hue, fcen on the ground of a ferene 
azure fky at the gomg down of the fun, prc- 
fent to the eye of every man a glorious fptfta- 
cie. It is hard to fay, whether we fhould call 
it grand or beautiful. It is both in a high de- 
gree. Clouds towering above clouds, vari- 
ouflv tinged, according as they approach nearer 
to the direct rays of the fun, enlarge our 
conceptions of the regions above us. They 
give us a view of the furniture of thofe regi- 
ons, which, in an unclouded air, feem to be 
a perfed: void; but are now feen to contain 
the (lores of wind and rain, bound up for the 
prefent, but to be poured down upon the 
earth in due fcafon. Even the iimple ruftic 
does not look upon this beautiful fky, merely 
as a (how to pleafe the eye, but as a happy 
omen of fine weather to come. 

The proper arrangement of colour, and of 
light and Ihade, is one of the chief beauties 
of painting ; but this beauty is greateft, when 
that arrangement gives the moft diilincl:, the 
molt natural, and the moft agreeable image of 
that which the painter intended to reprefent. 

If we confider, in the laft place, the beauty 
of form or figure in inanimate objects, this, 
according to Dr. Hutcheson. refults from 
regularity, mixed with variety. Here it ought 
to be obferved, that regularity, in ail cafes, 
exprefies defign and art: For nothing regular 
was ever the work of chance; and where re- 
gularity is joined with variety, it expreflss de- 
fign more llrongly. Befides, it has been juftly 
obferved, that regular figures are more eafily 
and more perfectly comprehended by the mind 


O F B E A U T Y. 471 

than the irregular, of which we can never formC HAP. 
an adequate conception. ^"* 

Although ftraight Hnes and plain furfaces " ""^^"'^ 
have a beauty from their regularity, they admit 
of no varietv, and therefore are beauties of the 
lowed order. Curve lines and furfaces admit 
of infinite variety, joined with every degree of 
regularity ; and therefore, in many cafes, ex- 
cel in beauty thofe that are ftraight. 

But the beauty ariiing from regularity and 
variety, muft always yield to that which arifes 
from the fitnefs of the form for the end intend- 
ed. In every thing made for an end, the form 
muft be adapted to that end ; and every thing 
in the form that fuits the end, is a beauty ; 
every thing that unfits it for its end, is a de- 

The forms of a pillar, of a fword, and of a 
balance are very different. Each may have 
great beauty ; but that beauty is derived from 
the fitnefs of the form, and of the matter for 
the purpofe intended. 

Were we to confider the form of the earth 
itfelf, and the various furniture it contains, of 
the inanimate kind ; its diftribution into land 
and fea, mountains and valleys, rivers and 
fprings of water, the variety of foils that cover 
its furface, and of mineral and metallic fub- 
ftances laid up within it, the air that furrounds 
it, the viciffitudes of day and night, and of the 
feafons ; the beauty of all thefe, which indeed 
is fuperlative, confifts in this, that they bear 
the moft lively and ftriking impreflion of the 
wifdom and goodnefs of their Author, in con- 
triving them fo admirably for the ufe of man, 
and of their other inhabitants. 




The beauties of the vegetable kingdom are 
far fupericr to thofe of inanimate matter, in 
any form which human art can give it. Hence, 
in all ajies, men have been fond to adorn their 
perfons and their habitations with the vegeta- 
ble produftions of nature. 

The beauties of the field, of the foreft, and 
of the flower-garden, flrike a child long before 
he can reafon. He is delighted with v/hat he 
fees ; but he knows not why. This is inftinft, 
but it is not confined to childhood ; it conti- 
nues through all the flages of life. It leads the 
Florift, the Botanift, the Philofopher, to exa- 
mine and compare the objects which Nature, 
by this powerful inflind, recommends to his 
attention. By degrees, he becomes a Critic 
in beauties of this kind, and can give a reafon 
why he prefers one to another. In every fpe- 
cies, he fees the greateft beauty in the plants 
or flowers that are moft perfeft in their kind, 
which have neither fuffered from unkindly foil, 
nor inclement weather ; which have not been 
robbed of their nourifhment by other plants, 
nor hurt by any accident. When he examines 
the internal flruclure of thofe produdions of 
Nature, and [traces them from their embryo 
flate in the feed to their maturity, he fees a 
thoufand beautiful contrivances of Nature, 
which feaft his under (landing more than their 
external form delighted his eye. 

Thus, every beauty in the vegetable creation, 
of w^hich he has formed any rational judgment, 
exprefles fome perfedion in the objeft, or fome 
wife contrivance in its Author. 

In the animal kingdom, we perceive dill 
greater beauties than in the vegetable. Here 
vvc obferve life, and fenfe, and activity, various 


O F B E A U T Y. 473 

inftinfts and afFedtions, and, in many cafes, C H A p. 
great fagacity. Thefe are attributes of mind, I^- 
and have an original beauty. 

As we allow to brute animals a thinking 
principle or mind, though far inferior to that 
which is in man ; and as, in many of their in- 
tellectual and adive powers, they very much 
referable the human fpecies, their aftions, 
their motions, and even their looks, derive a 
beauty from the powers of thought which they 
exprefs. * 

There is a wonderful variety in their manner 
of life ; and we find the powers they poflefs, 
their outward form, and their inward ftrudure, 
exactly adapted to it. In every ipecies, the 
more perfectly any individual is fitted for its 
end and manner of life, the greater is its 

In a race-horfe, every thing that exprelTes 
agility, ardour, and emulation, gives beauty 
to the animal. In a pointer, acutenefs of 
fcent, eagernefs on the game, and traftablenefs, 
are the beauties of the fpecies. A fheep de- 
rives its beauty from the finenefs and quantity 
of its fleece ; and in the wild animals, every 
beauty is a fign of their perfedion in their 

It is an obfervation of the celebrated Lin- 
N^us, that, in the vegetable kingdom, the 
poifonous plants have commonly a lurid and 
difagreeable appearance to the eye, of which 
he gives many inflances. I apprehend the ob- 
fervation may be extended to the animal king- 
dom, in which we commonly fee fomething 
fhocking to the eye in the noxious and poifon- 
ous animals. 




CHAP. The beauties which Anatomifts and Phyfio- 
logifts dcfcribe in the internal flrudlure of the 
various tribes of animals ; in the organs of fenfe, 
of nutrition, and of motion, arc exprellive of 
v/ife defign and contrivance, in fitting them for 
the various kinds of life for which they are 

Thus, I think, it appears, that the beauty 
which we perceive in the inferior animals, is 
expreflive, either of fuch perfections as their 
fcveral natures may receive, or expreflive of 
wife defign in him who made them, and that 
their beauty is derived from the perfections 
which it exprelfes. 

But of all the objects of fenfe, the moft 
ftriking and attractive beauty is perceived in 
the human fpecies, and particularly in the 
fair fcx. 

Milton reprefents Satan himfelf, in furvey- 
ing the furniture of this globe, as ftruck with 
the beauty of the firlt happy pair. 

Two of far nobler fhape, ereCt and tall. 

Godlike erect ! with native honour clad 
in naked majefty, feem'd lords of all. 
And worthy feem'd, for in their looks divine. 
The image of their glorious Maker, ftione 
^ Truth, wifdom, fanCtitude fevere, and pure j 
; Severe, but in true filial freedom plac'd, 
: Whence true authority in man ; though both 
I'Not equal as their fex not equal feem'd, 
- For contemplation he, and valour formed. 
For foftnefs ihe, and fweet attractive grace. 

In this well known paflage of Milton, we 
fee that this great Poet derives the beauty of 
the firft pair in Paradife from thofe expreflions 


O F B E A U T Y. 475 

of moral and intelledlual qualities which ap- ^ ^^ ^' 
peared in their outward form and demeanour. " 

The mofl: minute and fyllematical account 
of beauty in the human fpecies, and particularly 
in the fair fex, I have met with, is in Crito ; 
or, a Diahgiie on Beauty, faid to be written by 
the author of Polymetis, and republiihed by 
DoDSLEY in his colletfion of fu.iitive pieces. 

I fliall borrow from that author fome obfer- 
vations, which, I think, tend to ihow that the 
beauty of the human body is derived from the 
figns it exhibits of fome perfection of the mind 
or perfon. 

All that can be called beauty in the human 
fpecies may be reduced to thefe four heads ; 
colour, form, exprelfion, and grace. The two 
former may be called the body, the two latter 
the foul of beauty. 

The beauty of colour is not owing folely to 
the natural livelinefs of flefh-colour and red, 
nor to the much greater charms they receive 
from being properly blended together ; but is 
alfo owing, in fome degree, to the idea they 
carry with them of good health, without which 
all beauty grows languid and lefs engaging, and 
with which it ahvays recovers an additional 
ftrength and luftre. This is fupported by the 
authority of Cicero. Vcnujias et pulcbritudo 
corporis fecerni nonpotcji avaletudine. 

Here I obferve, that as the colour of the 
body is very different in different climates, 
every nation preferring the colour of its cli- 
mate ; and as among us one man prefers a fair 
beauty, another a brunette, without being able 
to give any reafon for this preference ; this di- 
ve;rfity of tafte has no ftandard in the common 
principles of human nature ; but mufl arife 


476 ESSAY Vm. 

CHAP. from fomething that is different in different 
^^- nations, and in different individuals of the 
"^^ fame nation. 

I obferved before, that fafliion, habit, affo- 
ciations, and perhaps fome peculiarity of con- 
ftitution, may have great influence upon this 
internal fcnfe, as well as upon the external. 
Setting afide the judgments arifing from fuch 
caufes, there feems to remain nothing that, 
according to the common judgment of man- 
kind, can be called beauty in the colour of the 
fpecies, but what exprcffes perfect health and 
livelinefs, and in the fair fex foftnefs and deli- 
cacy ; and nothing that can be called deformity 
but what indicates difeale and decline. And 
if this be fo, it follows, that the beauty of co- 
lour is derived from the perfedions which it 
expreffes. This, however, of all the ingredi- 
ents of beauty, is the leaft. 

The next in order is form, or proportion of 
parts. The mofl beautiful form, as the author 
thinks, is that which indicates delicacy and 
foftnefs in the fair fex, and in the male either 
ftrength or agility. The beauty of form, there- 
fore, lies all in expreliion. 

The third ingredient, which has more pow- 
er than either colour or form, he calls expreffi- 
on, and obferves, that it is only the expreliion 
of the tender and kind pafiions that gives 
beauty ; that all the cruel and unkind ones add 
to deformity ; and that, on this account, good 
nature may very juftly be faid to be the beft 
feature, even in the flneft: face. Modelly, fen- 
fibility, and fweetnefs, blended together, fo as 
either to enliven or to correal: each other, give 
almofl as much attraction as the paffions are 
capable of adding to a very pretty iace. 


O F B E A U T Y. 477 

It is owing, fays the author, to the great^ HAP. 
force of pleafmgnefs which attends all the . 

kinder paflions, that lovers not only feem, but^ ' 
really are, more beautiful to each other than 
they are to the reft of the world ; becaufe, 
when they are together, the moft pleafmg pafli- 
ons are more frequently exerted in each of their 
faces than they are in either before the reft of 
the world. There is then, as a French author 
very well exprefles it, a foul upon their coun- 
tenances, which does not appear when they are 
abfent from one another, or even in company 
that lays a reftraint upon their features. 

There is a great diiference in the fame face, 
according as the perfon is in a better or a worfe 
humour, or more or lefs lively. The beft 
complexion, the fineft features, and the exact- 
eft fhape, without any thing of the mind ex- 
prefled in the face, is infipid and unmoving. 
The fineft eyes in the world, with an excefs of 
malice or rao^e in them, will grow ftiockin?-. 
The paflions can give beauty without the aflili- 
ance of colour or torm, and take it away where 
thefe have united moft ftrongly to give it ; and 
therefore this part of beauty is greatly fuperior 
to the other two. 

The laft and nobleft part of beauty is grace, 
which the author thinks undennable. 

Nothing caufes love fo generally and irrefifti- 
bly as grace. Therefore, in the mythology of 
the Greeks and Romans, the Graces were the 
conftant attendants of Venus the goddefs of 
love. Grace is like the ceftus of the fame eod- 
defs, which was fuppofed to comprehend every 
thing that was winning and engaging, and to 
create love by a fecret and inexplicable force, 
like that of fome magical charm. 



P. There are two klrxls of grace, the majeftic 
and the familiar ; the firft more commanding, 
the laft more delightful and engaging. The 
Grecian Painters and Sculptors ufed to exprefs 
the former moft firongly in the looks and atti- 
tudes of their Minervas, and the latter in 
thofe of Venus. This dillinftion is marked in 
the defcription of the perfonages of Virtue and 
Pleafure in the ancient fable of the Choice of 

Graceful, but each with different grace they 

This flriking facred awe, that fofter winning 


In the perfons of Adam and Eve in Paradife, 
Milton has made the fame diftindion. 

For contemplation he, and valour form'd. 
For foftnefs fhe, and fweet attradive grace. 

Though grace be fo difficult to be defined, 
there are two things that hold univerfaliy with 
relation to it. /vr//. There is no grace with- 
out motion; fome genteel or pleafmg motion, 
either of the whole body or of fome limb, or 
at leafl fome feature. Hence, in the face, 
grace appears only on thofe features that are 
moveable, and change with the various emoti- 
ons and fentiments of the mind, fuch as the eyes 
and eye-brows, the mouih and parts adjacent. 
When Venus appeared to her fon JEneas in 
difguife, and, after fome converfation with 
him, retired, it was by the grace of her motion 
in retiring that he difcovered her to be truly a 



O F B E A U T Y. 479 

Dixit, et avertens rofea cervice refulfit, 
Ambrofi^eque comsc divinum vertlce odorem 
Spiravere ; pedes veflis detiuxit ad imos ; 
Et vera inceiru patuit dea. Ille, ubi matrem 
Agnovit, l3'c. 

A fecond obfervatlon is, That there can be 
no grace with impropriety, or that nothing can 
be graceful that is not adapted to the character 
and fituation of the perfon. 

From thefe obfervations, which appear to 
meto be jufl, we may, I think, conclude, that 
grace, as far as it is vifible, confifts of thofe 
motions, either of the whole body, or of a part 
or feature, which exprefs the moft perfect pro- 
priety of conduQ: and fentiment in an amiable 

Thofe motions mud be different in different 
characters ; they mufl vary with every variation 
of emotion and fentiment ; they may exprefs 
either dignity or refped, confidence or referve, 
love or juft refentmcnr, efleem or indignation, 
zeal or indifference. Every paflion, fentiment, 
or emotion, that in its nature and degree is 
jufl and proper, and correfponds perfeftly with 
the charader of the perfon, and with the occa- 
fion, is what we may call the foul of grace. 
The body or vifible part confifls of thofe mo- 
tions and features which give the true and un- 
affe6ted expreffion of this foul. 

Thus, I think, all the ingredients of human ' 
beauty, as they are enumerated and defcribed 
by this ingenious author, terminate in expreffi- 
on : They either exprefs fome perfection of the 
body, as a part of the man, and an inftrument 
of the mind, or fome amiable quality or at- 
tribute of the mind itfelf. 



^ ^iv ^' ^^ cannot indeed be denied, that the expreffi- 
^^^.L^ on of a fine countenance may be unnaturally 
disjoined from the amiable qualities which it 
naturally exprefles : But we prefume the con- 
trary, till we have a clear evidence ; and even 
then, we pay homage to the expreffion, as we 
do to the throne when it happens to be unwor- 
thily filled. 

Whether what I have offered to iliew, that 
all the beauty of the objefts of fenfe is borrow- 
ed, and derived from the beauties of mind 
which it exprefles or fuggeits to the imagina- 
tion, be well founded or not ; I hope this ter- 
reflrial Venus will not be deemed lefs worthy 
of the homage which has always been paid to 
her, by being conceived more nearly allied to 
the celeftial, than flie has commonly been re- 

To make an end of this fubjeft, tafte feems 
to be progreflive as man is. Children, when 
refreflied by lleep, and at eafe from pain and 
hunger, are difpofed to attend to the objects 
about them ; they are pleafed with briUiant co- 
lours, gaudy ornaments, regular forms, cheer- 
ful countenances, noify mirth, and glee. Such 
is the tafte of childhood, which we muft con- 
clude to be given for wife purpofes. A great 
part of the happinefs of that period of life is 
derived from it ; and therefore it ought to be 
indulged. It leads them to attend to objects 
which they may afterwards find worthy of their 
attention. It puts them upon exerting their 
infant faculties of body and mind, which, by 
fuch exertions, are daily ftrengthened and 

As they advance in years and in underftandr . 
ing, other beauties attrad their attention, which 


O F B E A tr T r* 481 

by their novelty or fiiperiority, throw a {hade CHAP* 
upon thofe they formerly admired. Theyde-, 
light in feats of agility, ftrength, and art ; 
they love thofe that excel in them, and ftrive 
to equal them. In the tales and fables they 
hear, they begin to difcern beauties of mindi 
Some characters and aftions appear lovely^ 
others give difguftk The intelledual and mo- 
ral powers begin to open, and, if cherifhed by 
favourable circumftances, advance gradually in 
ftrength, till they arrive at that degreee of per- 
fection, to which human nature^ in its prefent 
ftate, is limited. 

In our progrefs from infancy to maturity^ 
bur faculties open in a regular order appointed 
by Nature ; the meaneft firft ; thofe of more 
dignity in fucceffion, until the moral and ra- 
tional powers finifh the man. Every faculty 
fur nifties new notions, brings new beauties into 
view, and enlarges the province of tafl:e ; fo 
that we may fay, there is a tafte of childhood, 
a tafte of youth, and a manly tafte. Each is 
beautiful in its feafon ; but not fo much fo, 
when carried beyond its feafon. Not that the 
man ought to diflike the things that pleafe the 
child, or the youth, but to put lefs value upon 
them, compared with other beauties, with 
which he ought to be acquainted. 

Our moral and rational powers juftly claim 
dominion over the whole man. Even tafte is 
hot exempted from their authority ; it muft be 
fubjeft to that authority in every cafe wherein 
we pretend to reafon or difpute about matters 
of tafte ; it is the voice of reafon that our love 
or our admiration ought to be proportioned to 
the merit of the object. When it is not ground- 
ed on real worth, it muft be the effeCt of con- 



CHAP, flltution, or of feme habit or cafual aflbciatlon. 
^^■^ ^ A fond mother may fee a beauty in her darling 
child, or a fond author in his work, to which 
the reft of the world are blind. In fuch cafes, 
the .affection is pre-engaged, and, as it were, 
bribes the judgment, to make the object worthy 
of that affection. For the mind cannot be eafy 
in putting a value upon an object beyond what 
it conceives to be due. When affection is not 
carried away by fome natural or acquired bias, 
it naturally is and ought to be led by the judg- 

As, in the divifion which I have followed of 
our intellectual powers, I mentioned moral per- 
ception and confcioufnefs, the reader may ex- 
pect that fome reafon fhould be given, why 
they are not treated of in this place. 

As to confcioufnefs ; what I think neceflfary 
to be faid upon it has been already faid, Effay 
6. chap. 5. As to the faculty of moral per- 
ception, it is indeed a mofl important part of 
human underftanding, and well worthy of the 
moft attentive confideration, fmce without it 
we could have no conception of right and 
wrong, of duty and moral obligation, and 
fmce the firft principles of morals, upon which 
all moral reaioning muft be grounded, are its 
immediate dictates ; but as it is an active as 
well as an intellectual power, and has an im- 
mediate relation to the other active powers of 
ihe mind, I apprehend that it is proper to defer 
ihe confideration of it tillthefe be explained. 


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